Archive for the ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ Category

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On the ‘Slumdog’ Bandwagon

February 22, 2009

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Religious persecution.  Murder.  Torture.  Child abuse.  Violence.  Betrayal.  Prostitution.  More violence.  Love and a million dollars, too. 

I was not expecting any of this.  After watching Slumdog Millionaire clean up at almost every award ceremony I vowed to see and review the film before tonight’s 81st Academy Awards.  Is it all just hype or truly a powerful masterpiece of a film as heralded by the critics and the ticket taker at my local movie theater.  Judging by this post’s title you can see which side of the fence I’m on.   

Slumdog is the story of Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), an orphaned Mumbai teen who becomes a contestant on India’s version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”.  After advancing one question away from the coveted prize he is arrested on suspicion of cheating.  While detained Malik tells his story of growing up impoverished, connecting his tragic life events to how he came to know the answers to each questions.  Clever.  The Movie Shrink likes. 

This is not your average fluff piece of a rags-to-riches tale.  While it certainly chronicles the most horrific of adversities in which the audience sympathizes with and roots for Jamal (a bit of art imitating life considering the indie film’s unequivocal win for Best Picture tonight) Slumdog is a history lesson, a necessary distraction from our current economic woes and a peek into the lives of those who are really struggling.  I mean hand-washing-clothes-in-a-river struggling.  Rummaging-for-food-in-a-landfill struggling. 

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The child actors are wise beyond their years and the most engaging aspect of the film.  Their eyes are haunting and dare the viewer to step outside the pleasures of Happy Meals, central heating, and indoor plumbing to see their world for what it really is- the life of a throwaway, a bartered commodity, a slumdog. 

Therapeutically speaking, Slumdog will resonate with those who seek a fictional representation of what it means to pursue love despite many obstacles.  Audiences will have a stronger and more negative reaction, however to the game show host, Prem Kumar (Anil Kapoor).  Kumar is sardonic and ruthless in his taunting of Jamal.  He is more than the arrogant host who does not want to see Jamal win, he is the psychological embodiment of the “crabs in a barrel” mentality whereas only he, a rags-to-riches success story himself, can be the pride of the Hindis.  In short, he is a hater.

This is a peculiar time in history where movie goers will be tempted to see movies like Madea as laughter indeed is the best medicine according to the popular adage.  Slumdog however, could not have come at a better time because of its international and multi-generational appeal.  All are struggling.  All are affected by the global financial crisis.  Why not see a film that will have you leave the theater feeling blessed for your many or few possessions?  Yes, jobs are far and few in between.  Yes, people are losing their homes and 401Ks.  The unfortunate truth however, is that someone will always have it worse.  Be thankful for what you do have.

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