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March 13, 2009

’Slumdog’ Defies Oscar Norms

Slumdog-millionaire6 How did Jamal Malik, a slumdog from Mumbai, win 20 million rupees on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

A. He cheated
B. He’s lucky
C. He’s a genius
D. It is destiny

In a swirling explosion of triumphant hope and relentless love against the darkness of poverty, exploitation and violence…that question is answered.

(Spoilers after the jump)

Last month Slumdog Millionaire (rated R) walked off the red carpet with eight Oscars, winking as it went…because it proved that postmodernism and nihilism are not essential ingredients of “true art.” Rather, it reminded an increasingly cynical cadre of elitist film aficionados that some of the best films are wrought with happy endings and subtle sovereignty.

Slumdog leading guy Jamal Malik (played by 18-year-old Dev Patel) sits calmly in the game show hot seat, nailing each question (questions that should stump doctors and lawyers) as his mind flits back to the Hindu raid that robbed him of his mother, the torture that blinded and prostituted fellow slum orphans, and Latika, the girl who has owned his heart for 10 years—the reason he went on the show in the first place.

As children Jamal and Latika are thrown together for sheer survival, after their parents are slaughtered in a Hindu raid. Thrust into a vortex of child slavery, torture, sexual exploitation, and violence, Jamal and Latika are separated for years, briefly united at intervals along the way, only to be thrust apart again. Through it all, Jamal’s love remains pure and relentless. The events that weave this almost-tragic love story together are the clues that feed Jamal the answers to his victory in the Millionaire hot seat.

When asked by the show host the secret to a slumdog’s brilliance, Jamal offers, “Maybe it’s written, no?”

Slumdog isn’t explicitly Christian, or even Muslim for that matter. But its two main themes—faithful love and unwavering destiny—thread their way toward transcendence. Even filmmaker Danny Boyle, who doesn’t attach any religious affiliation to this redemptive odyssey, can’t deny that whispers of sovereignty hover over his films: “There is something out there bigger, wider than we can accommodate at the moment.”

Jamal walks away with 20 million rupees, and our suspicions are confirmed: It was never about the money. He “bumps” into Latika waiting for him at the train station, and we learn the answer to this film: “It is written.”

Against an array of truthless downers, Slumdog radiates with unexpected optimism, virtue, and truth. Maybe that's why you don't have to be a movie snob to love it.

(Image © Fox Searchlight Pictures)

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Mary DeMuth

I adored this movie for the same reasons you wrote here.

Babu Syed

http://babusyed.blogspot.com/2009/03/colours-of-slumdog-and-millionaire.html for review on slumdog

(Ed. note: Review contains profanity. --GRD)


My good friend and I went to see this movie on Saturday and we were quite pleased with our pick. Despite all the pain and suffering in the movie, ultimately good trumps evil and it was just a great, happy ending. A very satisfied flick. Although, it did prick our consciences and make us want to go to India and take home as many orphans as we can fit in our guest bedrooms.

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