Who wants to be a Slumdog Millionaire?

Jamal Malik is about to experience the biggest day of his life.

Based upon the novel Q&A by Vikas Swarup, Slumdog Millionaire is the story of Jamal, a young tea boy working in a call centre in Mumbai, desperately seeking his long lost love. Through his persistence he winds up crossing an underworld gang leader, gets caught by the police on suspicion of being a cheat, and ultimately is on the verge of winning 20 million rupees.

Director Danny Boyle once again shows off his ability to tell diverse stories filled to the brim with emotions. He startled audiences with Trainspotting in 1996, took them on an adventure on The Beach in 2000, and startled them in 28 Days Later in 2002. In 2007, Boyle opted for a science fiction story: Sunshine. But the story didn’t shine on audiences as Boyle hoped it would.

Hence, Boyle is back at doing what he does best: making small movies about real characters in real situations. And it doesn’t get much real than the story of Jamal Malik whose rags-to-riches story can almost be compared to Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. But to properly tackle the fact that the story was Indian, Boyle chose his casting director, Loveleen Tandan, to be his co-director. A smart decision on the part of Boyle, as Tandan’s previous work on movies such as Brick Lane, Monsoon Wedding, The Namesake, to name a few, brought a wealth of experience for Boyle. Her experience impressed Boyle, who said, “Initially it was obvious how she helped us with the casting. We’d be trying to audition seven year olds in English, and it wasn’t working with them, and she said: “I’m horrified to tell you, Danny, but you should do it in Hindi.” I said: “Okay, we’ll do it in Hindi.” It was like a million times better straightaway.”

At first there was panic in the studio when Boyle began re-tooling 75 per cent of the film’s English dialogue into Hindi. Now that Boyle found the cultural connection with Tandan, he wanted the writer to find his own connection too.

Written by Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty and Yasmin), there are drastic differences between the book and the movie, smartly made by the writer. Beaufoy traveled to India, befriended local filmmakers and even spent time with street children to get a feel of the story. There is also something interesting presented by Beaufoy – overlooked by the western media – is his attention to the persecution of Muslims in India. It’s only a small part of the story, but a vital one for Jamal’s character. And hence, even the writer connected to the culture.

Jamal is portrayed by British actor Dev Patel. Boyle considered hundreds of young male actors, although he found that Bollywood leads were generally “strong, handsome hero-types”, not conflicted and different, like Jamal. Boyle’s 17-year-old daughter showed him Patel, who at that time was starring in a British TV drama.

Jamal shares his screen time with renowned Indian actor Anil Kapoor, who portrays the host of the show Prem Kumar. Kapoor, aka Mr India, steals most the scenes he’s in with the young Patel. His devious intentions stand in the way of Jamal, who continues to look for his long lost love, Latika. Model Freida Pinto stars in her first theatrical role as Jamal’s love interest, Latika. Besides the conflict of the world, Jamal is shown to always be at odds with his brother, Salim, a role played by Madhur Mittal.

A special note should be given to the young actors, Ayush Mahesh Khedekar and Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, who played younger versions of Jamal and Salim. If it not for them, the entire build up of the story would be flawed from the start. Their performances, both innocent and naive, and cunning and malicious, show us a glimpse of what each character will be at the end of the movie.

And although this is British production of a movie set in India, Boyle acknowledged that the only way to achieve a proper authentic feel for the movie would be to have the proper music. Enter Indian music composer maestro A. R. Rahman. The composer planned the score over two months and completed it in two weeks. He stated he was aiming for “mixing modern India with the old India with the music, but that the film and soundtrack “isn’t about India or Indian culture. The story could happen anywhere.” Boyle hated sentiment and told Rahman not to “put a cello in the film”. Instead he imagined an “edgey” and “sharp” score. Rahman appreciated the director’s praise for Bollywood music, saying the director wanted “edgy, upfront” music that did not sound suppressed. Composing pieces to fit the images, he noted: “There’s not many cues in the film. Usually a big film has 130 cues. This had just seventeen or eighteen: the end credits, beginning credits.” And with each cue, Rahman captures the mood of the characters and the beats of the story. The soundtrack is perhaps the best score released in 2008 so much so, that Rahman received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score.

And that’s not the only Golden Globe nomination the movie has received, it has also been nominated for Best Motion Picture (Drama), Best Director (Danny Boyle) and Best Screenplay (Simon Beaufoy). But what is more impressive is the amount of awards the movie has won so far. Amongst the critics circle alone it has won a staggering 62 awards. Slumdog is not only a hit amongst the critics; it is a hit amongst the people too. It’s a simple story that has won hearts and amid a time of terror and hopelessness, provided a moment of hope for movie goers all around the world.

It's safe to say that Slumdog Millionaire is movie that you won’t forget anytime soon.
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