International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Film
Millionaire - "The Feel Good Film of the Decade"
Director: Danny Boyle, Loveleen Tandan (Co-Director:
Starring: Dev Patel, Anil Kapoor, Freida Pinto and Irrfan Khan
Based on Q&A, a novel by Vikas Swarup
Winner of Four Golden Globes
glanced past a write-up of the film, taking in only the first line,
"Jamal Malik, an 18-year old orphan from the slums of Mumbai,
is just one question away from winning 20 million rupees on Indias
Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"
What resonated was
how unreal that felt. Was Hollywood once again trying to glamorize something
so incongruent with that money-making world? I decided I wouldnt
go and see the film. Then a few days went by and I discovered that certain
comments had sat with me. I wondered whether I had brushed past the
review of this groundbreaking, incredible film
The vibrant sound of fun-loving India blasted through the speakers and
there was no escaping its force. The twists and turns of Asias
largest slum open up before me as a handful of young rascals run from
an inevitably fatter, slower official. This is Mumbai.
Jamal Malik has grown up with his brother in Mumbais Dharavi slum.
He appears on Indias version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
and, after being captured and tortured for being thought a cheat, he
unravels how he, a slumdog, could possibly know the answer
to each question. The story unravels his journey, a path that he printed
alongside his brother Salim, and a fellow orphan, Latika. We discover
why he is truly playing a game that could see him win such unimaginable
money and why it is that a persons being is almost certainly caught
up in their history.
Taking in the immediate scenes of chaos and laughter I instantly know
that I am about to be impressed. Colour splatters onto the screen at
every turn; the fuchsia pinks, the dazzling oranges and the striking
turquoises that portray the richness at the centre of India. The mayhem
in congested streets, bustling markets and over crowded trains pours
out and echo vistas explored by countless travellers old and new. What
Danny Boyle wonderfully depicts with a subtlety only defined by some
of the greatest directors, is the charm and cunning of Indias
underdogs both children and adults alike.
Tim Walker quotes Boyle in The Independent stating, "Considering
that the film features poverty, torture and murder
go in expecting it to be Mamma Mia!" This is absolutely
true, sometimes I found myself gasping, and I believe Boyles resignation
over what the marketing campaign might signify with the lead
characters smiling under confetti was justified. The image misrepresents
what I feel the film does portray: the heart of the Indian people.
Maybe this is where my first negative thoughts had derived from, of
believing the film would reveal an unreal India, an India I knew and
loved. Far from it however, the images sucked me in to depths of Mumbai
I hadnt known existed and felt could not possibly have come from
producers who did not know India. There were times when I gritted my
teeth at portrayals that in my eyes went against the grain, but I had
to shake my own head in congratulations at how well executed the mandatory
wobble of the head from left to right, when an Indian agrees rather
than disagrees with a situation, had been depicted. That acutely observed
mannerism confirmed to me the authenticity of these images.
The fact that Boyle produced this film with $15 million rather than,
in the case of another current film, The Curious Case of Benjamin
Button, ten times more than that, also led me to believe that
this film wasnt just about the money.
read in The Independent that, "the three youngest child
leads, who were all cast from the Mumbai slums, are now having their
schooling funded by the films producers, with the promise
of a trust fund should they pass their exams at 16." The actor,
Anil Kapoor, who plays the host of the game show in the film, has
also donated his fee to Plan India, a child development NGO in Delhi.
There does seem more glory coming out of this film aside from the
wages for the cast and crew.
Why does the film
make us feel so good then? In keeping with the films enlightened opening
I offer four possible answers. Is it because:
a) Out of the unthinkable terror, pain and suffering that these three
children go through, something unites them that is everlasting;
b) The film portrays an incredible sense of reality in a culture so
far from us but one so much a part of our world that it should be significant;
c) We are given what every feel-good film requires: astounding music,
pure romance, infectious laughter and mixed with that, a hope in believing
that our dreams can come true;
d) We come to the conclusion that above all, as one of Jamals
questions invites us to believe, the truth triumphs.
© Josephine Green Jan 22 2009
jgreen27 at hotmail.co.uk
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