One of our "Most Spiritually Literate Films of 2008" and the winner of the "Best Picture" Academy Award, this film is directed by Danny Boyle, who received the "Best Director" Oscar. This picaresque tale centers around an immensely resilient and loving boy from the garbage-ridden slums of Mumbai whose adventures take him from the desolate poverty of begging on the streets to the wildly popular game show stage of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" where he surprises everyone with his knowledge. His story offers a panoramic view of India's rise as a country of fantastic contrasts from crowded cities to the stunning beauty of the Taj Mahal to the back rooms of telemarketers to the high-rises of Mumbai where business is thriving and creating a middle class yearning for more. The result is a phantasmagorical journey with a boy turned young man who throughout all his experiences maintains his natural goodness and his Eastern belief in destiny and love.
Jamal (Ayush Mahesh Khedekar) as a seven year old is a "slumdog" born in Mumbai and living with his Muslim mother and older brother, Salim (Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail), a born hustler. They possess a lot of energy and play amidst the mounds of garbage around the shantytown where they live. A high point in his early life is when he manages to get the signature of one of India's Bollywood screen stars; the means whereby he accomplishes this feat is a sign of his creativity and resilience. A low point in his early life is when his mother is brutally killed when anti-Muslim rioters overrun their slum. Jamal and Salim find themselves on the streets without any resources or hope. They pick up another orphan named Latika (Rubina Ali) whom Jamal immediately befriends. They see themselves as the Three Musketeers.
A dark cloud hangs over the lives of these three when they are abducted and taken into a criminal orphanage run by a nefarious entrepreneur who uses the kids as beggars. He encourages some of them to become singers and then gouges out their eyes because blind kids can bring in twice as much money as the others. When Salim discovers the danger they face, he leads Jamal and Latika in an escape. The two boys leap on a moving train but she doesn't make it and is recaptured.
As teenagers, Jamal (Tanay Hemant Chheda) and Salim (Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala) learn more tricks of the trade of street survival by becoming tour guides at the Taj Mahal, making up their own version of the significance of the place. They also steal the shoes of Muslims in mosques and sell them for money. Jamal wants desperately to reconnect with Latika (Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar), and they return to Mumbai and find her working in a red-light district.
Jamal (Dev Patel) goes on to find employment as a "chai wallah," a boy who delivers beverages at a telemarketing firm. Salim (Madhur Mittal) lands a profitable job working for a wealthy gangster. On a visit to his brother, Jamal catches up with Latika (Freida Pinto) who is a plaything for Salim's boss. His plan is to become a contestant on India's version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" so he can always be with Latika, his soul mate.
All the country is watching as this earnest young man answers the questions correctly and inches his way toward the grand prize of 20 million rupees. The show's host Prem (Anil Kapoor) at first loves how this "Rags to Raja" story is boosting the ratings. But he begins to think Jamal must be cheating and has him taken to a police station where he is interrogated by the Police Inspector (Irrfan Khan).
Danny Boyle, who impressed us immensely with the spiritual riches of Millions, has made another extraordinary movie that takes us to places we have never been. The cinematography of Anthony Dod Mantle is truly awesome, and the music by A. R. Rahman distills the many moods of the multidimensional story by screenwriter Simon Beaufoy. In his fascinating book The Global Soul, Pico Iyer notes that we live in a world where everywhere is made up of everywhere else. The borders between here and there are collapsing, yet people feel cut off from this unity thanks to the pressure of their own high-speed and crazed lives. Danny Boyle has created a multicultural masterwork that tears down the walls between us and Jamal, a Muslim boy from Mumbai's slums who becomes a major celebrity because of his appearance on television game show.
If we let him into our hearts, Jamal can teach us a thing or two about survival. He is the kind of person who, in the words of Sara Teasdale, "makes the most of all that comes and the least of all that goes." This astute young man is naturally curious, and he keeps track of his experiences and what he learns at each stage of his life. Watching the results of his awareness, we are challenged to take note of the many teachable moments in our lives. Time and time again, Jamal is tested and in the process he develops the strength, resilience, and self-directedness to fix his sights and make his moves.
What sustains him besides pluck and determination? He allows the spirit of love to work through him. He never swerves from his bond to Latika from the time he meets her on a rainy day to the last scene in the film. Intuition is vital to Jamal's survival, and it comes in very handy in a turning point decision he must make on the television game show. Finally, he models what it means to have a zest for life that can carry us through the darkest times when we want to give up and make it all go away. Jamal stays the course, and journeying with him is an inspirational experience.
Special DVD features include “Slumdog Dreams: Danny Boyle and The Making of Slumdog Millionaire"; deleted scenes; “Chase Through Slums - Longer Version”; “Boys at Container Yard/Beanbags/Yellow Dress”; “Prem at Police Station”; Frederick Stevens Question; “Jamal at Opera, Boys Leave Agra”; “Jamal Searches, Finds Arvind”; “Chowpatty Beach and Tulip Star”; “Jamal Returns to Tulip Star”; “Jamal Wakes in Slum”; "Why Can't You Leave It Alone"; “Jamal Loses Latika, Calls Salim”; “The Folder”; a commentary by director Danny Boyle and actor Dev Patel; a commentary by producer Christian Colson and writer Simon Beaufoy; and “Slumdog Cutdown.”