Slumdog Millionaire will undoubtedly be an Oscar contender in any number of categories. It tells the story of a young boy from the slums of Mumbai, Jamal Malik, who grows up and becomes a contestant on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Jamal’s regular job is serving tea to the workers at a telephone call center in Mumbai. The country is captivated and astounded at the “chai wallah” who can answer questions that even doctors and lawyers cannot.
The movie is told through flashbacks of Jamal’s life, and the various events that have shaped who he is, and how he can possibly know the answers some rather arcane questions. It is an inventive way to tell a story, and it is quite effective. Jamal and his older brother Salim have as poor and difficult a life as one can imagine. After being orphaned during a sectarian riot, they befriend Lakita, another poor orphan. It is Jamal’s adult quest to reunite with Latika that leads to his desire to be on the show.
While it is difficult to watch the violence and poverty of Jamal’s life, this movie is definitely worth the effort. At different stages of their lives, Jamal, Salim and Latika are each played by three different actors. Each of them does an excellent job of portraying their character. The child actors, in particular, are great.
Slumdog Millionaire is not playing in lots of theaters, but it’s worth seeking out. And if you enjoy a bit of Bollywood, stay for the closing credits.