Title: Slumdog Millionaire
Director: Danny Boyle
Love For Slumdog
I remember when this movie came out, it was one of the most talked about movies of the year. Everyone was making references to it. Whether it was the representation of the Indian slums or screaming “Jai” Ho in your face, Slumdog Millionaire somehow stuck with the audience and it’s no surprise it would even become the Oscar winner of that year. I mean, what wasn’t to love? It had a bit of everything, drama, romance, comedy, ethnic locations and a catchy and fun dance number to end it all. With all this was the director Danny Boyle heading it who is probably one of the happiest looking directors I’ve ever seen.
How can you not love this man?
Was it deserving of its praise? Let’s find out with my first instalment of…
Slumdog Millionaire was the big winner at the 81st Academy Awards, gathering the most award nominations of any other film that year. It was pitted against The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk and The Reader for Best Picture and emerged victorious, along with wins for best director, cinematography, best original score and song.
Needless to say, it did pretty well during awards seasons. Looking back it’s funny to think what an impact it made because it’s barely ever talked about today. People react to it with an “oh yeah, I remember” type of response. It made a big splash when it came out but that didn’t linger too long after. Seeing the films it was up against though, I do feel it was deserving of the award.
Danny Boyle is a fantastic director who isn’t afraid to try different genres and new things. This isn’t like any of his other films and his hard work as a director really shows. The cinematography is beautiful. As the camera runs through the streets of the Juhu slums of Mumbai we are met with all sorts of colours and visuals that really bring the setting to life. To add to its authenticity, they even cast actual children from the slums as our main characters at a young age. A risky decision, but these kids are absolutely phenomenal and they bring that level of genuine honesty needed to portray these characters. It’s also worth noting this is one of the few “Hollywood” films that features an all South-Asian cast which is rarely seen at all.
And let’s not forget the music created by A.R. Rahman. It’s a great soundtrack that supports the visuals and is never distracting at any point in the film. You just get lost in the Indian inspired rhythms and sounds of the music, which aid in bringing you deeper into the film. Whether you love the final tune “Jai Ho” or detest it, there’s no denying it’s a catchy tune that brings energy to those end credits. There’s a lot of top-notch work being done on this film and it’s well deserving of its praise.
Halfway Decent Film
Despite all the great qualities this film has, it’s really just a halfway decent film. I mean that literally too. The halfway point of the film is where the story starts to fall flat. The minute the characters are introduced as adults in Jamal’s flashbacks it becomes rather lacklustre as a whole and that’s in part due to the writing and in part due to the acting. Funny, since the adults are actual actors and the kids were not. The first half of the film is incredibly engaging and intriguing as we follow Jamal’s life as a kid and teen and everything he had to go through. The attack on the slum where he loses his mother when he has his “audition” for Maman and the potential to lose his eyes, the constant fear and running the two brothers had to do just leaves you on the edge of your seat and pulls at your insides. Even the more comedic moments of the boys hopping about the train and giving fake tours at the Taj Mahal are fun to watch and keep you interested. The film should have stuck in this direction with the characters because the adult parts are bland and cheesy. A concerned Jamal as a teen trying to find the girl that was on hard times with them becomes a love-struck puppy dog. It shifts from the gritty realities of the kids to a corny romance. This brings the film down especially since the entire second half is all about the love between Jamal and Latika. I don’t even want to get into the whole “It is written” corniness that permeates through the second half because that would be a whole essay on its own. If the film had kept the focus on the relationship between the two brothers, it would have been a stronger choice and narrative arc than suddenly turning the film into a melodrama. It’s a shame because the first half delivers emotionally and is intriguing to watch.
The Millionaire show, which is used as a framework for the entire movie, works well and makes for a fun storytelling technique. If they had stuck more to how a boy from the slums knew all these answers from his tough past and the disturbing things he went through rather than having it all be revealed that he just wanted to go on the show to find the love of his life, it would have made for a more engaging film and might have even been more powerful as a whole.
Do you know who Loveleen Tandan is? If you said no then you’re probably part of the majority of people. I didn’t even hear of her until a few days ago. She is the unsung hero of Slumdog Millionaire. An Indian director who co-directed the film alongside Danny Boyle. She was the one dealing with all the kids and language and working in the slums, making it easier for the crew to get what they need. Basically, she was a huge help in the best parts of the film and barely got any recognition for it from North American Audiences. I didn’t see her getting the Oscar alongside Danny, which she deserves just as much as he does.
Speaking of Oscars, did you also hear about how they brought the child actors out of the slums to attend the Academy Awards only to bring them back to the slums afterwards? That’s an emotionally traumatizing thing to do to these young kids. Eventually, there were reparations given to them, but at the moment seemed like a lack of judgement on their parts. Oops.
Sure. I do think the good outweighs the bad and makes the film, as a whole, worth watching. The first half is enough to be hooked by and keeps you holding on until the end of the film. Plus, some people love seeing that kind of romantic narrative in films and they would probably love this movie. It’s a solid piece of filmmaking all around and is worth watching at least once.
Also, try getting Jai Ho out of your head. You won’t.