I finally got to see Slumdog Millionaire on DVD, and what struck me immediately is how the movie is a classic rags to riches American story, even if it takes place in Mumbai, India.
It’s the story of how two young boys, Jamal and Salim, against all odds survive and find success. Heck, one even becomes a millionaire. It’s that American Dream of work hard, live by your wits, and with a little luck you’ll become successful and get the girl. It doesn’t hurt to be smart either.
True, Slumdog Millionaire isn’t that cut and dried. There’s a lot of tragedy a gritty realism, too. A religious riot that causes the death of the boys mother. Somehow they manage even though they’re homeless and orphaned. As a mom, this part of the movie was the toughest for me since my children are about the same age as Salim, Jamal and their orphaned friend, Latika. Would my children survive in those circumstances? I dared not think about forced begging, purposeful maiming, prostitution and the exploitation of young children and girls in third world countries.
But don’t get me wrong, Slumdog Millionaire is as funny as it is tragic. It’s uplifting, too, since the movie is about friendship, love, family and sacrifice. You cheer on the slum(under)dogs and hope that they do well even as they are stealing food and ripping off unsuspecting tourists at Taj Mahal. And you breathe a sigh of relief when they get decent jobs in a restaurant, thinking finally they were safe – even though they were not.
Eventually, Jamal ends up appearing on the Indian version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” After lasting longer than anyone ever expected, Jamal is accused of cheating and must prove to the police and the show’s producers how he knows the answers by retelling his arduous childhood in a series of flashbacks. It’s a brilliant way to tell the story and director Danny Boyle does a marvelous job.
Slumdog Millionaire is wonderful, but not for children. It’s rated “R” but a good movie to watch at home with teenagers or mature tweens – with lots of discussion about poverty, exploitation of children into begging and prostitution, violence, and gangs. I would encourage you to seek out the book, Slumdog Millionaire: A Novel (originally called Q&A) by Vikas Swarup.
(Thanks to Click Communications for the review copy.)