Saturday, January 03, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire: Mesmerizing Story and Film

Writing. One writes when they get inspired. I've been inspired by Slumdog Millionaire. What a fantastic film. I loved it. I think it's also a terrific film to break down and analyze. I'm not going to do that now, but I think this is the kind of film that would be very good for teachers and the classroom.

Just in case you haven't heard critics talk, or read anything about Slumdog Millionaire, here's the basic story-line. Jamal Malik, a young man from the slums of India appears as a player on India's version (which looks exactly like the US version) of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. We see Jamal as a boy growing up with his brother Salim and true love, Latika—all orphans who make their way from the slums into adulthood through thievery and gang activity. The brother's mother dies early on in Muslim raids, leaving her children to fend for themselves. But, they turn out to be very scrappy kids.

The story creatively unfolds through torture, then dialogue with a local police inspector who has been told by Millionaire's host that he believes Jamal cheated in order to win. Slowly we see that Jamal's answers came from his youth-filled experiences as he and his brother tried their best to survive without parental guidance. Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire's director was interviewed by Gotham Chopra and I was struck by a simple thought he brought forward. It was the same thought that struck me after my visit to a Zambian community. Humans can do much with very little. In fact, we don't need to have much more than the basics. Food, clean water, a roof over our heads and safety. Our Zambian driver told us exactly that. As Americans we often forget that we don't need much to be happy.

Slumdog has many elements that I personally enjoy in a film. Beautiful cinematography and an interesting story—one I've not seen or heard before. Well developed, real, human characters. A culture that is especially exotic and exciting. I am so interested in visiting India now. This film is full of eye-popping symbolism and metaphor that can keep you thinking for days after watching it. It reminds you that life is not easy no matter who you are, where you live or how much money you have. It is impossible to go through life without challenges, problems, and the ups-and-downs of daily living. We all go through it. But, this film shows us the possibilities for happiness. With all the negativity that we see daily, on screens of every size, it is refreshing to witness an upliftingly positive story. We need to be reminded often.

"India has an "upward energy...moving toward happiness."
Danny Boyle