Entertainment & Media
Slumdog Millionaire – A Cinematic Masterpiece
By Alain Deen
Volume 2 Issue 4
February 10, 2022
Image provided by IMBd
“Slumdog Millionaire” is a film that I hold dear to my heart. Over the years, I have heard a lot about this film, primarily because I live in a brown household. However, it was not until this year that I feasted my eyes upon this cinematic masterpiece. I took Intro to Film, an English Department elective here at North, and it introduced me to a whole host of amazing films that are not commonly discussed among students. For instance, we watched “12 Years a Slave”, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, “Silence of the Lambs”, “Moulin Rouge”, and so many more. We watched “Slumdog Millionaire”, and it was quick to become one of my favorite films of all time. This may be partly due to my love for Dev Patel, but that is a story for another day.
Watching this film was nothing short of a captivating, breathtaking, and enthralling experience. This might just be my favorite out of all the films we have watched in class this year. In short, the film is a romance drama, and it takes place from the years 1992 to 2006. The film centers around Jamal, a child growing up in the slums of India (specifically Mumbai). However, the film really takes place in 2006 as Jamal answers questions on the Indian version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” The film flashes back to multiple points of his life, which helps him answer the questions. In 1992, we saw Jamal’s mother die due to a religious raid, leaving him and his brother Salim orphans. A corrupt orphan agency discovers the pair. In other words, they purposely injure the orphans and use them to beg for profit. Jamal and Salim quickly escape, while their friend Latika is held back.
Jamal utilizes his experiences as a child to answer various questions, as he was exposed to various stimuli over the years. However, he is questioned and tortured as some are suspicious of his ability to answer the questions. After finding their way out of the raid, Salim and Jamal stumble upon Latika, an orphan girl. Over the years, Jamal has lost Latika, stumbles upon her again, and subsequently loses her over and over again. They hold a strong affinity for each other, but their relationship did not get the chance to flourish until 2006. As they grow up, Salim enters a life of crime, while Jamal seeks a simpler solution to his orphanage, finding jobs all over the place. His experiences helped Jamal win the game show, allowing him to become a millionaire. The film concludes with Salim’s death, and Jamal and Latika finally enjoying the opportunity to be with each other.
This film is timeless. It provided me with the brown representation I have always desired in mainstream media. The story of a boy from the slums of India succeeding was both heartwarming and fulfilling to watch. The story itself did not consist of stereotypical representations, cliché themes, or out-of-touch dialogue. The plot provided us with a raw, emotional story about a boy from Mumbai. Dev Patel provided us with an outstanding performance. This film was simply a medley of beautiful cinematography, stellar performances, and an introspective look at Indian life. I loved the Indian representation in this award-winning film. It was amazing to see an Indian-centered film in the mainstream media, instead of Bollywood. I am from Guyana, a former British colony with Indian roots. It was beautiful to see brown representation, and I appreciated that the most.
Additionally, Dev Patel is one of my favorite actors. I have never seen this film before, and he delivers a stunning performance as Jamal. His emotion is raw, which is what one should look for in an actor. His character portrays a sense of cool headedness while answering the questions, highlighting the complexity of Patel’s performance. His character should not have been shocked, as Jamal simply recalled past experiences to answer the questions. Patel developed the character around the concept of exposure in contrast to knowledge, which I loved. The cinematography, editing, and dialogue were superb. This film deserves a solid 5 out of 5 stars—no doubt in my mind.
The film still holds up to this day for a variety of reasons. For one, the film taught me a valuable lesson on being grateful. Yes, I know it is basic, but the film really makes the audience aware of how little some children are left with. For instance, the polluted state of India was heartbreaking to see. Additionally, the tight living spaces and troubled education system also taught me to value both of those aspects of my life. For example, when Jamal and Salim ran through the streets, the living quarters were so tightly packed, which made me thankful for my spacious living conditions. Not only that, but it even served as a reminder to value my parents. Jamal and Salim lost their mother in one of the worst ways possible, sending them down a spiral of poverty and street living. Yet another reason to be grateful for my education, house, and most importantly, my parents.
The film also taught me a minor lesson on street smarts in contrast to book smarts. While trivial knowledge comes in significant use, knowledge gathered from exposure to various situations definitely wins. Living in the slums helped Jamal become a better person, gain knowledge, and develop an introspective outlook on life. In my opinion, that is really important to recognize. As a high school student, I tend to get caught up in numbers, statistics, and data. However, it is worth noting that my experiences now are more definitive for my future than anything else. Lastly, the film taught me that when one stumbles upon the right person, they are really meant for each other. Latika and Jamal met from childhood, constantly lost each other, but managed to find each other time and time again.
Overall, if you are looking for a compelling, raw story about the lows of modern Indian life, this is the film for you. The film contains valuable lessons, which is also why I recommend it. Who knows? It might even help if you ever have the opportunity to win a million dollars...