Friday, 20 January 2012

Slumdog Millionaire

Smell the Movies
Smell the TV


Country of origin:UK
Director:Danny Boyle, Loveleen Tandan
Genre:Quiz based drama
Starring:Jamal K. Malik, Sergeant Srinivas, Freida Pinto, Irrfan Khan
IMDB link:
Tagline:Love and money... You have mixed them both.
Favourite line:"I knew the answers."

Having gained the Best Picture Oscar in 2009, my skeptical gland kicked into high gear and squirted thought altering enzymes into what passes for my brain, convincing me that I would hate this with every nuclei in my cells.
Seeing posters plastered everywhere proclaiming it to be the 'feelgood movie of the year' only made matters worse, as the very notion of a feelgood movie sends me into spasms.
Then I recalled the inimitable Mark Kermode's review when it was doing the rounds in the cinema in which he urged caution. This is not a feelgood movie, he warned, but actually a rather difficult watch at times.
The promise of darkness and scenes that make you flinch persuaded me to give it a go, and I'm glad I did.

For the seven people currently alive that are yet to see the movie, here's the plot:
Dev Patel plays Jamal Malik, a young man whose life is turned upside down when, by a quirk of chance, he gets to appear on the Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. He grew up in the slums of Mumbai, and no-one expects much of him, not even the host of the show who teases him and berates him in equal measure, at one point informing him off camera that he doesn't have a chance of getting the next question then, later, pretending to help him out by telling him which letter to choose, only to be shown as a liar.
Well, as it turns out, Jamal is rather good at the game, as each of the questions he is capable of answering and we, the viewer, get to watch the backstory, the moments in his life where he acquired the knowledge to be able to answer the questions.

It's a neat setup, and no mistaking, the movie hung together on a framework quite unlike any other movie I have ever seen.
The portrayal of Mumbai is devastatingly realistic, and the moments to challenge come in the form of the almost unimaginable horror and cruelty that is everyday life in Mumbai; a business man who makes money by disfiguring children and sending them out to beg, the religious violence that orphans so many, the low value attached to human life.
It is startling stuff.
Having been to Mumbai myself, having seen young boys with no legs dragging themselves along with just their arms, having seen dogs with savage gashes in their sides so severe the guts hang out, having seen women with tumours on their faces so large they can barely see, this is a movie that pulls no punches in its portrayal of the place.
The feelgood factor, such as it is, comes in the form of the triumph through adversity, the rags to riches tale and the love story woven into the fabric of the plot, but bear in mind this is a film that ends with a young man being executed by gunshot in a bath full of money, so laugh a minute it ain't.
Well worth the watch, as Danny Boyle movies always are, special mention must also be made of the music and the young cast, both of which are extraordinary.
A great movie, just don't expect this tale to be sugar-coated.

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