Who Wants to Be a Slumdog Millionaire?
Slumdog Millionaire is a romantic drama directed by Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan. This independent film won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs and the Oscars – and, as of 2010, it is the only movie besides Schindler’s List to concurrently receive these accolades. The mind-blowing, award-winning soundtrack by A.H. Rahman is likewise spectacular from beginning to end. Throbbing beats and electronic effects mixed with creative sitar and percussion contributions make for an ear-pleasing, aural orgasm inspired by Rahman’s variety and ingenuity.
The plot concerns a boy named Jamal who was born in India and his eventual fate-driven appearance on Kaun Banega Crorepati? (India’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?) If you haven’t seen this masterpiece yet, you should absolutely stop reading, sprint toward your vehicle, rip open the car door, plunge yourself into the driver’s seat, smash the accelerator and scream down to Blockbuster. You don’t want to spend one more moment of your life without having had this viewing experience.
The audience swallows life through Jamal’s innocent-yet-penetrating, wide, brown eyes. Watching this boy grow up, you truly start believing in the film’s reality; you feel as though you are observing the life of a real person. You have an intimate knowledge of Jamal and his motivations, hopes, dreams, fears and experiences by the end, along with the unshakeable feeling that you know him personally. A lack of big-name actors contributes to this immersive result. If I was watching Leonardo DiCaprio live life on the streets of India – even if he had the necessary ethnic heritage – the instilled conviction that I’d literally peered into a real person’s life would be nearly impossible to duplicate. I already think I know who Leonardo DiCaprio is. I have preconceptions about him based on the characters he’s played in the past. I’ve speculated on why he’s played them, who he is personally, and how I feel about him when I take these things into consideration. Every time I see him, I have a mixed bag of prejudicial notions which, in turn, affect the way I view him in a movie. When actors star in several movies, appear in the tabloids and give personal interviews, the pigeon-holing effect is practically inevitable. It’s the reason why many actors are typecast in the industry.
Paradoxical to the “true documentary” overtone, there is a dance scene at the end which is highly unorthodox given the tone of the film; it almost attempts to counteract the realistic, dramatic feel, but only results in a confused yet rapt audience reconfirming the true chemistry which exists between the star-crossed lovers and ignoring the surreal element.
Another contributory component of believability is the minimal product placement. For various reasons, companies actually refused to display their logos in the film. Companies such as Mercedes-Benz cars and Thums Up Cola didn’t want their products shown in unflattering settings (such as the slums.) There isn’t much glamorization of the slums; there are very few opportunities to appeal to audience cravings based on the context of the product. This “product displacement” creates a less commercial, more focused environment for the characters to live in. However, Marlboro Light cigarettes are seen several times in the film, leading to questions of priority and funding.
The realistic feel is perpetuated by a “just the facts” story-telling approach. The story, good and bad, is merely relayed to the audience without creating an obvious expectation for a specific type of ending.
The final destination is somewhat difficult to divine while you’re watching it, given the gravity of the circumstances and the absence of optimism. It is unpredictable and sporadic; it leaves the audience guessing. The film’s tone was neither positive nor negative, however; it was all over the map with positives and negatives as well as the occasional neutral occurrence. Bad guys are killed and revenge is taken for wrongs that are done; however, many children are horrifically abused and continue to be, throughout – sometimes Jamal’s rescues went awry, resulting in the further abhorrent treatment of his loved ones. Unlike most emotionally charged mainstream dramas, it doesn’t play out within the parable template. Virtue doesn’t earn you immunity in this world, but neither does vice. The only message that remained was something like, “Love conquers all,” or “We are all destined to be with one special person,” or something of that nature. Certainly, the writer believes in love and destiny… and in extensive character development. The end result is audience consideration of love and destiny – belief in fate and rejection of coincidence.