In cricket, who has scored the most first class centuries? Is it, A) Sachin Tendulkar, B) Ricky Ponting, C) Michael Slater, or D) Jack Hobbs ?
If you know the answer then you could win the million dollars in India’s ‘Who Wants To be a Millionaire?’ At least, that’s the million dollar question for Jamal in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire.
This film is an almost perfect mix of comedy, drama, romance and action and my pick for Best Picture winner at this year’s Oscars(*).
Some of the early scenes of this film reminded me of Fernando Meirelles’ City of God, a very fine picture that follows the youths of a slum (in Rio de Janeiro) and their inevitable descent into gang life. Slumdog Millionaire is similarly set in the slums, of Mumbai, but rather than follow the path of violence and destruction, it allows itself to be leavened by the impish behaviour of brothers, Salim and Jamal. That is not to say however that this film ignores the reality of their impoverished circumstances or the susceptibility to criminal behaviours. It does however follow the life of Jamal who escapes from these pitfalls.
Narratively the story is a series of flashbacks as Jamal answers questions on the gameshow and we see how he came to know the answers. At the end however you come to realise that the emotional thread that holds this film together is Jamal’s love for Latika, and his continuous search to be reunited with her.
The highlight of the film for me was the Bollywood dance scene involving the whole cast run during the credits. It had the feel of a cast party – unexpected but joyous. It had nothing whatsoever to do with the telling of the story but because we had come to know these characters, ridden the emotional wave of ‘will they/won’t they’ : to break out into dance seemed the most appropriate way to celebrate the end of the film.
Highly recommended. 5 out of 5.
(*)This does not mean I think it will win, although it might. I simply have no idea who will win. As you all well know, Oscar winners have only a little bit to do with how good they are and a lot to do with other things.