I initially hadn't had much interest in "Slumdog Millionaire", but then it got a lot of good reviews and good word of mouth, and then a friend saw it and said he really liked it, and then it got a fair number of substantive Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, so I decided that I'd go see the film. I really didn't know that much about the film - I'm not sure I'd ever seen a trailer or a TV spot. I think I'd just seen the poster. OK, I knew that it was about someone very poor who wins at the gameshow "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?", which would of course change their lives.
Wow does that not tell you squat about what the movie is really about.
Yes, Jamal grew up in the slums of Mumbai, and he eventually ended up on the show, and he ended up winning it all. But the film is told mostly in flashbacks because he is being brutally interrogated by the police under the suspicion of having cheated at the game because he couldn't possibly have known the answers to all those disparate questions.
And in painstaking and heartbreaking succession, it is revealed how a specific instance in his life led to him knowing the answer to each of the questions asked of him during the game. Something as innocuous as the questions on a game show weave the tapestry of the tragedies that comprise his life.
I really had no idea that the film would be as heavy as it was. But they pulled it off brilliantly. Jamal, his brother Salim, and female friend Latika are each shown in three distinct periods of their lives, so each character is played by three different people. At each age - young child, pre-teen and early adult - each of the actors are really phenomenal. The only person in the cast that I recognized was the man playing the police inspector, who also played the father in "The Namesake", another terrific film.
The only thing that was a little odd was that this was so not a Bollywood film, but during the end credits, Jamal and Latika are joined by a group of random train passengers in dancing to a song. It's a little out of place with the rest of the film, but I guess you have to have some kind of dancing regardless, and it is at the end.
After having seen the film, I get why this little indie picture has garnered so much praise.