Over the years, Danny Boyle has proved himself as a director who is not constricted to one particular genre. Beginning with the small scale drama Shallow Grave and later going on to direct the cult hit and critical success, Trainspotting, based on the novel by Irving Welsh, Boyle showed his command of the drama and thriller genres from an early point in his career. Upon directing the post-apocalyptic drama, 28 Days Later and the rich, psychological exploration that was Sunshine, Boyle’s ability to direct science fiction was clear. One can’t help but wonder if despite Danny Boyle’s competence with multiple genres, he actually capable of directing an India based film filled with Bollywood homages. There is no simple answer to this question; it’s up to each viewer to decide.
Slumdog Millionaire, at it’s opening, doesn’t appear to be the “feel-good film of the year” as so many of its posters state it is. It opens with our main protagonist, Jamal, being tortured for allegedly cheating on India’s equivalent to “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” Jamal is not the wealthiest man in India, nor is he the smartest. He is just an office skivvy from the Dharavi slums of Mumbai. Upon answering the penultimate question on the game show, Jamal is seen with suspicion, as the police inspectors says, “Doctors… Lawyers… never get past 60 thousand rupees”, Jamal’s success is quite implausible. Upon being asked what “a Slumdog” would possibly know, Jamal simply responds with, “The answers”.
Jamal has lead an extraordinary life, each event in his life holds the key to one of the questions asked on the show. In his interrogation, Jamal presents his life story showing what this Slumdog really does know.
Dev Patel plays our protagonist, Jamal. Previously seen in the British Teen Comedy Drama, Skins, Patel transforms completely allowing the viewer to completely forget his previous, almost hedonistic role. Patel at first appears to be a bit wooden, but at time goes on it becomes increasingly apparent that Jamal is a tortured soul. Patel is completely convincing as Jamal. Playing Jamal’s brother, Samil, is Madhur Mittal. Mittal is adequate, but to an extent he is overshadowed by Patel. Freida Pinto makes her film debut as Latika, the love of Jamal’s life and his driving force. She is mesmerising in her role and does not make it clear that it is her acting debut.
Slumdog Millionaire is one of the rare films where the performances of the child actors are as good the performances of the more mature actors. Each of the three main protagonists is seen at three different stages in their lives. The actors playing the characters at younger ages are a joy to watch.
The soundtrack for Slumdog Millionaire was composed by A.R Rahman who has scored many Indian films such as Lagaan and Deepa Mehta’s Water. The score is quite varied, it has upbeat moments and downbeat moments but it is always perfect for the particular scene. Unfortunately, it is to an extent forgettable and despite two of Rahman’s songs being nominated for academy awards, some viewers may only remember hearing M.I.A’s Paper Planes which appeared in David Gordon Green’s Pineapple Express.
Slumdog Millionaire is not a great film for everyone, but then again what is? The extent to which Slumdog Millionaire is a “feel good film” or “poverty porn” as some critics have stated is completely up the viewer. In the opinion of this reviewer, Slumdog Millionaire is well scripted, superbly acted, visually stunning and on the whole a wonderful film.