Although the premise behind Slumdog Millionaire — a film adaptation of Q & A, an award-winning novel by Indian author and diplomat Vikas Swarup — seems at first glance to be overly simple and nothing more than a sappy love story, the movie gradually unfolds to tell a textured and compelling tale of subjugation, brotherly love and destiny.
Through lush cinematography and a captivating soundtrack, director Danny Boyle of Shallow Grave and Trainspotting Fame does an amazing job of simultaneously evoking an amalgamation of emotions — sadness, happiness, disgust, anger, amusement and hope.
The movie tells the eventful life story of a young man, Jamal Malik, through the game show — Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? The boy comes from the slums of Mumbai and works as a chai-wallah who serves fragrant tea to call-centre workers. Through a series of extraordinary circumstances, he finds himself sweeping the grand prize of 20 million rupees, but not before getting hauled away by the cops for interrogation under suspicion of fraud. Being young, uneducated and from the slums, it appeared incredulous for Jamal to have known the right answers unless through devious means, or so it seemed.
As Jamal recounts the story behind his knowledge of the answer to each question, he reveals in vivid flashbacks, a life pockmarked by poverty, violence, discrimination and hatred, yet filled with love and trust, a life ultimately redeemed by an intangible quality that had little to do with his sudden windfall.
While a wonderfully entertaining piece of work, Slumdog Millionaire doesn’t seem entirely deserving of all the hype and accolades it has garnered. Its Achilles’ heel is the somewhat weak and seemingly redundant romance plot, ironically the catalyst behind the story. It seems almost too unreal and fairy tale-like, but then again, sometimes the most complicated things in this world can only be truly enjoyed with the simplest of hearts.