Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: Dev Patel, Madhur Mittal, Freida Pinto
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Who wants to be a millionaire? Pretty much everyone in the slums of Mumbai, apparently. Everyone, that is, except for Jamal (Patel). But it’s this impoverished Indian answering the infamous fifteen questions. One away from the jackpot, he is arrested for fraud and savagely interrogated. How does someone like him know the answers?
Danny Boyle’s Oscar-winning movie tells us, rewinding from the recorded show back to Jamal’s childhood and hitting the play button hard. When they are just boys, Jamal and his older brother, Salim (Mittal), are orphaned when their mother is killed in a horrific riot. They become street kids, slum dogs, pulling any stunt to grab a fistful of rupees. Drums pounding in our ears, the brothers run away from gangsters and the police, entangled in the child-exploiting underworld of India – this is the stuff that isn’t in the guide book.
Intercut with his on-screen Q and A, Jamal’s life story unfolds energetically, from his chai-running day job to his brother’s wayward fortune. Through it all, he steadfastly loves fellow slum-girl Lakita (Pinto). His devotion an ever fixed mark, which looks on hard times and is never shaken, she’s the reason he goes on WWTBAM in the first place – an idealised plot function rather than a character in her own right. But in a world of fairytale logic, our three musketeers age convincingly, their friendship buffeted about by poverty; authenticity is the aim and with a talented lead in Patel, Boyle’s co-director Loveleen Tanda mostly achieves it.
Channeling City of God and Tsotsi, the production is full of dirt-covered streets and on-foot chases. Ramping up the style (dutch tilts ahoy), Danny repeatedly foregrounds the backdrop, placing the action firmly beside its location. Coupled with the beat of the score, style saturates every second of screen time – we’re a long way from Scotland, but Danny has never been more at home.