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Slumdog Millionaire: Movie Review

February 26, 2009

Note: This review was written on 23rd Jan, 2009 @

Why does Slumdog Millionaire deserve a place to be among the best of the 2008-09?

A. It’s got some terrific performances.

B. It’s a technically brilliant film.

C. It has got 130+ nominations and won close to 70 awards since late last year.

D. It’s Destiny.

Back in 1988, Mira Nair’s “Salaam Bombay” depicted the stark reality of the children living on the streets and that became the second Indian movie to be nominated for an Oscar award. Twenty years later, in 2008, Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire” is in the limelight…and this time, the hoopla is bigger and better! SM as it is being referred to, is about Jamal Malik, a guy from the slums of Mumbai who wins his childhood sweetheart’s (Latika) heart by winning Rs.20 million on the Indian version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”.

Jamal Malik, a contestant on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” just one question short of winning Rs. 20 million, is arrested on the suspicion that he might have been cheating. During the interrogation, Jamal confesses elaborately how incidents in his life have helped him to answer all the question in the show. As he grapples to convince the police about his credibility and innocence, a certain undercurrent about his life emerges as his primary motive behind his appearance on the show. Latika. Does Jamal Malik win Latika’s heart? Does he manage to win Rs. 20 Million? How did he manage to author a rags to riches story? All these questions form the nexus of this beautiful story, so convincingly intertwining that in the end, it gives an overwhelming feeling of hope, love and destiny.

Let me confess something at this juncture before I proceed. I have seen the movie after reading multiple reviews on and, both of which have given overwhelmingly positive reviews. I have seen this movie after reading multiple blogs both criticizing and praising the movie (including Roger Ebert, several top critics on and of course, our own Amitabh Bachchan). Believe me, sometimes words don’t really give a proper perspective of images. And when images mean different things to different people, it becomes all the more difficult to understand in the same way as the other person does. Every adjective, verb, noun, adverb written about the movie is true! Every award it has won so far is totally justified. And barring few across the world, every face coming out of the cinema halls will have a smile. Thanks to some beautiful cinematography, editing, screenplay, direction, background score, performances…it just might be one of the better movies you would see in a long time.

The story of an underdog beating all odds isn’t a new concept, atleast here in India. Countless movies featuring Rajanikanth stand as a testimony why such movies find a huge audience. But then, Slumdog Millionaire isn’t just another underdog story. Although adapted from an Indian author’s (Vikas Swarup) book “Q and A”, the film has Danny Boyle written all over it. It’s easy to enter into a dilemma, if we should consider this as an Indian film in the end. I think, it’s not. It’s made from a Outsider’s perspective of the inside story. But where it scores and strikes the right chord is, the thin line between “being Indian” and “Indian” is almost non-existent. Part fiction, part fantasy, part reality and an ample dose of luck and coincidence, makes it an instant hit. So much so that, I don’t mind watching it the fourth time…:). It has already appeared on several critics’ Top Ten movies list in 2008. And here’s why I think it deserves the accolades…

A. It’s got some terrific performances.

Since the beginning of all the hoopla, Dev Patel has been hogging all the limelight. But honestly, the rest of the cast have also got a good amount of footage and Madhur Mittal (Eldest Salim), Freida Pinto (Eldest Latika) have done a great job. The real stars in my opinion are the two child artists, Ayush Mahesh Khedekar and Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail who play Jamal and Salim respectively. They make the characters so likeable with their energy and innocence that it’s hard not to see them in another frame of mind even when they grow up. Mahesh Manjrekar is brilliant and Anil Kapoor is good as the anchor of the show and so are Irrfan Khan and Saurabh Shukla. The rest of the star cast is apt in their roles and the whole credit for this should go for Loveleen Tandon and Danny for assembling and extracting such a brilliant performance from each of them.

B. It’s a Technically Brilliant Film.

If there’s something which you cannot reject, then it has to be the technical brilliance of the movie. Cinematography, Editing, Background Score, Sound, Lights, Production, screenplay are some of the best in recent times. Especially the Cinematography and editing with a great sync of Rahman’s compositions have a profound effect. The zipzapzooming of camera in the lanes and gutters of Mumbai’s slums, and the composition by Rahman everytime Jamal thinks of Latika are two of my favourite things in the movie. The direction by Danny Boyle, is perhaps as good as it was in his 1996 film, “Trainspotting”. Watch the movie to understand how everything falls into place and only then do all my words make sense.

C. It has got 130+ nominations and won close to 70 awards since late last year.

Yes…that’s true. It’s probably the most number of nominations (including 11 BAFTA and 10 OScars) I have seen for any movie in the recent times. The word of mouth publicity and some overwhelming reviews by major critics worldwide have worked wonders for the movie. Everyone loved it and so will people in India. Irrespective of what Big B has to say about the movie on the blog, this could perhaps be the most watched/talked about movie in India after Ghajini. Maybe the possibility of Rahman winning an Oscar is one such thing which might add a whole lot of momentum across the country.

D. It’s Destiny.

Some movies strike gold, the moment the concept is conceived. I don’t know if this movie falls into the category, because there are still some issues which might not find universal acceptance. For example, some striking resemblance to Fernando Meirelles’s and Kátia Lund’s “City of God” and a grave picture of India’s poverty and how the protagonists end up duping tourists., etc is just a blip on the radar. Even we make films depicting the poor and their living conditions in shocking detail, but none of them look so full of hope as it does in Slumdog Millionaire. Here nobody cribs about their own hopelessness and the dystopian halo around them. That’s probably one thing about the movie which will stand out. It’s just a sweet bitter love story, about how far does a guy go for the girl he loves.

I don’t know what makes a movie great. But I understand the nuances of human nature. And this Indo-British film, more than any other Indian film in the recent times, is proud of what it has depicted and has the soul in the right place. It’s optimism and sheer joy is infectious. At the end of the day, maybe more than the awards, it’s the feeling of having witnessed the complexity of our lives being brought alive on screen which makes a film special. A movie worth watch as many times as your stamina permits…fall in love with mumbai. Celebrate the feeling of being an Indian. Because as Salim says, “India is at the centre of the world, and We(SM) are at the centre of that Centre”. The answer to that above mentioned question is perhaps E…because for some things, words are not enough! Don’t miss it…this movie is worth every penny you have spent. And if you are among those who have lost faith in movie following some disastrous movies in the past, this will bring you back to life. Mark My Words! I go with 5/5 for Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire” and I hope Rahman gets an Oscar as well…seriously Oo Saaya…sounds so brilliant on screen…:)

After Thoughts: My prediction for the Oscars….Slumdog Millionaire has a good chance of winning atleast 4 oscars. Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Original song and possibly Best Director

P.S: All those people who wanna defame the film for what it has depicted, can instead raise funds for the financial upliftment of the poor and if they can’t do that, just watch the movie or go fly kites!

(Republished from my original post on

9 Comments leave one →
  1. February 26, 2009 9:08 pm

    For a long time I havent watched a film with such different kind of story.The script was very intelligently connected with present life and past life.This is an amazing mix of “story” and “real life”.Cast was very good and natural looking with no overacting.Kids even acted very well.Overall I think this movie should be rated 9/10.This movie has now become one of my evergreen favorites!

    • Hemanth permalink*
      February 26, 2009 9:30 pm

      @Joe: I agree with you on that. Loved the acting, especially the kids and the Cinematography was brilliant. It kinda reminded me of “City of God”…but I still think it’s kinda overrated. As an Indian, maybe my point of view differs from what US/EU viewers think. Certainly the reality is well depicted…but maybe such stories have been tried and tested before in Indian Cinema.

      All said and done, it still is a very well made movie with some excellent cinematography and background score.

  2. February 27, 2009 3:08 am

    I almost accept with all the points you enlisted! I was sure among one of those “smiling” faces you talked about.
    Though not grossly, but definitely the film is over rated.
    IMHO, there were better contenders for Best Director, Cinematography and may be Best Movie too!! Dark Knight is one amongst them.
    Otherwise, a well-deserving movie, after all 🙂

  3. June 14, 2009 11:04 pm

    At a time where the world is going through an economic downturn, this move has given us hope and made people all round the world better about themselves.

    • Hemanth permalink*
      June 15, 2009 9:09 am

      @Sofia: Well, ever since this movie has released it may have given hope for people around, but certainly life changed for those kids who live in actual slums of Mumbai. Everything they did/didn’t do became headlines…its important that we take a positive element from this movie, otherwise chances are that we might end up with a sizeable amount of populace who say this movie is nothing but tourism porn in the shanties of Mumbai!..:)

      Thanks for dropping by. Hope you have liked this blog.:)

      • June 15, 2009 3:28 pm

        @Hemanth First of all, I really liked your blog.

        I could not agree with you any more Hemanth; that we should be left with “positivity”, optimism and hope after witnessing such a heartfelt story.

        Slumdog Millionaire was just a trailer in the lives of the kids from the slums. I am touched by the humanity of it all, that they have rightfully benefited.

  4. Hemanth permalink*
    June 15, 2009 4:15 pm

    @Sofia : :). Agreed!…I heard Danny Boyle has taken rights to make another movie on Mumbai based on a book by Suketu Mehta called “Maximum City” and he’s tagging along with Anurag Kashyap for this venture…lets see how this one goes…:)

    • Abhishek permalink
      August 11, 2009 11:37 pm

      Well, if you have read Maximum City, that is gonna be a difficult one to make…
      But yeah, looking at SM, I guess Boyle could pull it off. If so that will be one heck of a movie!!

  5. Hemanth permalink*
    August 12, 2009 9:43 am

    @Abhishek….Yeah, I heard about Danny’s plans to make Maximum City into a movie…haven’t read the book yet…shall do sometime soon…:)

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