Slumdog Millionaire

Having been in Mumbai recently, and spent a wonderful few days there, I really wanted to see this film. During the Christmas holidays we went to the only place in town that was showing it: an older theater that plays older, more obscure films. The local art house, as it were. Unfortunately, about a half hour into the movie the projector broke down and the staff was unable to repair it. Quite a letdown, but they gave us two free passes. Tonight we finally redeemed them.

What a great film. It’s the story of Jamal Malik, a young guy from the slums of Mumbai who becomes a contestant on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. The conceit is that each question in turn recalls another horrific incident from his past. We watch his life unfold in flashbacks, and see how his experiences allow him to answer one question after another. Maybe I read too much into it, but I saw Jamal as a metaphor for India as a whole: how the economic “boom” it is now experiencing is a consequence of its tragic history (e.g., the call center where Jamal works as a chai walla could not exist without the British colonization, which for all its injustice left English as a common language).

I only spent a week and a half in India, but from what I saw, this film seemed to capture the spirit of the place perfectly. I give it my highest recommendation.


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