“ What will YOu do with Yourself in your impending retirement?”,
Interrogates the BW (Beautiful Wife), who’d really prefer that I
“Well, I’ll go to movies and maybe get a job as a movie
reviewer for a weekly newspaper or a monthly magazine”, I
“ But your movie reviews are limited to character studies
and psychodynamics. All those years in a dimly lit consulting room
listening to nervous people hasn’t aught you anything about acting,
about directing, about photography. You’ve got a lot to learn
about movie reviewing.” The BW correctly critiques.
I counterattack with, “Who do you suggest I ask about how to learn those things?”
And then silence.
Slumdog Millionaire is the tragi-comic story of Jamal Malik, an 18 year-old Muslim orphan from the 1980’s predominantly
Hindu slums of Mumbai (Bombay).
We meet him in what should be the biggest day of his life.
With the whole nation watching, he is just one
question away from winning a staggering 20 million rupees on India¹s “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”
Interestingly, he’s not excited about it.
But when the show breaks for the night, the police arrest
and torture him, accusing him of cheating. How could a street kid know so much?
Desperate to prove his innocence, Jamal flashbacks us
to a painful multi-layered story of his life in the slums where he and his brother, Samil, grew up.
We learn that their mother was murdered as the boys narrowly escaped from a violent anti-Muslim attack by Hindu extremists He shares with us their adventures as homeless beggars on the streets of 1980 Bombay, (though it could be a ghetto anywhere).
And there are vicious encounters with local gangs, during
which they take on Latika, a girl also an abandoned child.
They speak of themselves as the three
Musketeers, but eventually Latika gets separated from them.
There’s a touch of humor as the boys are taken under the
wing of a Fagan-like sadist entrepreneur who teaches them to bilk foreign sight see-ers, while pretending to be tourist guides. They fake stories about well known tourist attractions that are more imaginative than the facts..
What fun contrasting the Eastern philosophy with a
Western style Game show that is based on materialism at
its worst.. What better villain than the game
show’s crafty scheming moderator who tries with each question to confront the contestant with greed for wealth and with the fear of losing it all.
The film’s crisis plays out after a lavatory scene
where he gives Jamil the “wrong” answer to the million rupee question. Will Jamal go along with this crookedness and lose everything.?..
The flashbacks often clue you in to how he gets the
game show¹s multiple choice answers to its difficult questions. But not every answer to the questions has been learned from life experience.
There is no facile script writing in this movie.
Some times Jamil uses the ” lifeline”, polls the
audience, or just makes a lucky guess. Does some
unknown power guide his continuing to be a contestant on
There’s a couple of other questions for movie go-er
to answer if he’’s to get value received for the ticket price. Like ,.
“What is this young man with no education and
no apparent desire for riches, doing on the game show?
“ Why does he have so little feeling about whether
he wins or loses the money ?”
Suddenly it comes to you as the end of the movie
approaches and you “get”:it. He doesn’t care about
money to move up in the caste system, He’s not
interested in a life of luxury. You suddenly feel
“uplifted” as you realize that this is a love story
to end all love stories. As we understand why he
manipulated getting on the show and what he really
had to gain, we discover a truism about our own lives.
This story is about “Everyman” and Everycountry” past or present.. Jamal’s story stands in bold contrast to his brother Samil’s aggressive style. Perhaps we need a little understanding of Eastern philosophy to fully appreciate the brilliance of the movie.
If I were to meet a Zen Master on the street and to
ask him where to apply to learn to become a Zen Master,
he would greet me with silence. He has long
forgotten the process. He just lives a life that has
divine truth in it, a life that has transcended
the mind-body separation.. He eats when he is hungry,
sleeps when he is tired, and he has no wish to acquire
material goods which are only transient and have no
meaning to him now or in the after life. God guides
him in truths about the meaning and purpose of life”.
A Zen Master is not at one with God, He is at one with Nature., His exhilaration is in transcending
the travails of society, of material possessions, and of malfunction or painful body sensations.
Does it matter !! the story was only pretending
to be about wealth versus poverty, about good versus evil?.
Was it a story about lessons learned in the
school of hard knocks (read torture)? I think it was
a love story! A subtle love story that contrasted
Jamil’s unending search for his childhood “true love”
with his brother’s vacuous struggle with reality.
Latika,, a truly beautiful actress by the way, is Jamal’s
“truth” and purpose in his life,
Re-uniting with her was for him the promise of being at
one with Nature.