Cast: Dev Patel (Jamal Malik), Madhur Mittal (Salim), Freida Pinto (Latika), Ankur Vikal (Maman), Mahesh Manjrekar (Javed), Anil Kapoor (Prem Kumar) and Irrfan Khan (police inspector).
Basic movie facts: Anil Kapoor who played the fictional tv host of the Indian version “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” was once a guest on the real show similar to the one in the film and won a great amount of money. Dev Patel got the part due to the director’s daughter recommending Patel after seeing him in the British show “Skins”. This was Freida’s first film as an actress as she was a model before being cast as the female lead. Frieda’s yellow scarf was specially made just for her and there is no other like it. Initially, the director Danny Boyle did not want to do the film, but changed his mind once he found out the screenwriter for the film also wrote for one of Boyle’s favorite movie “The Full Monty” (Simon Beaufoy). Simon Beaufoy, the screenwriter, interviewed street children in India to learn more about their ways and behavior to implement it as realistic as possible into the film. This film won 8 Oscars.
Pros: As I have seen many Indian films, I was thrilled to see one of my favorite Indian actors, Irrfan Khan (the police inspector) in this film! I was impressed by the complexities of the timeline, as this film would do flashbacks in accordance to the question being asked at that moment during the tv show. The dialogue was well written and the storyline was interesting enough to keep me captivated from one scene to another. The tv show questions were easy enough for me to answer correctly, albeit, I did not know the answer for the 3rd to the last question. I thought the casting of Ankur Vikal as Maman was brilliant. Ankur has this angelic face that can suddenly turn so evil in seconds. His smile is beautiful, yet insanely poisonous once his eyes turn malice-definitely one of my favorite characters in the entire movie. I’m also a fan of the directorial talents of Loveleen Tandan as I have also seen a few of her other movies she’s directed. I was happy to finally see a Bollywood dance that Indian movies are known for at the end. I’m so used to watching Indian movies where everyone breaks out in dance and song in random parts of the film, that I was wondering when this particular scene would happen to make it legit.
Cons: There were a few parts in the movie which were predictable such as the scene where the tv host “tells” Jamal which answer to give for the final question. I knew immediately what was to follow. Some scenes were filmed a bit too quick for my eyes to keep up, but I suppose it was done on purpose to keep pace with the storyline. The scene with the boy and what they did to his eyes was not easy to watch. This scene bothered me a lot more than I expected and still haunts me to this day. My naiveness was exposed due to this cruelty that still exists in parts of the world. I love children, so illustrating a child getting hurt in a film in that manner really affected me more than I expected.
Cinematography: Director of Photography was Anthony Dod Mantle from Oxford, England. Anthony is also known for filming two episodes of “Wallander” and currently working on a new film called “In The Heart of the Sea”. I noticed a lot of reflection of light from above in many scenes, which was nice for dramatic effects. Sometimes the main characters in the background would be “framed” by the unfocused people or objects in front of them until the characters would eventually come towards the camera and lose the unfocused frame. I thought this was clever as the main characters were indeed inside a bubble of their lives surrounded by evil encounters and the general bustle of life in India. If the main characters were to be constantly in focus and filling the main screen of the movie at all times, it would lose all effect in what the storyline was trying to convey. The end scene was perfect where it just had the two main characters with each other and there was nothing “framing” them which allowed the viewer to have the full impact of what that scene finally meant to the both of them. Freedom.
Music score: A.R. Rahman produced the musical score for this film. I have had the English version of “Jai ho” on my ipod for a few years now, but it was great to finally hear the song in its original language. Rahman mixed Western sounds with a twist of techno, fine orchestra and vibrant vocals for most of the scores. Music from India has some of the romantic song lyrics I have ever heard and this comes from watching numerous Indian films. The lyrics of “Dreams on Fire” is sweet. The humming version of the song is called “Latika’s Theme”. “Liquid Dance” and “Ringa Ringa” are two of my favorite songs from the film.
Jamal: I knew you’d be watching.
Latika: I thought we would meet only in death.
Jamal: This is our destiny.
Latika: Kiss me.
Audience reaction: Two thumbs up!
Relatability: It was suggested for me to watch this film, so I had to comply, of course. I had heard of this movie many years ago, but for some reason or another, I never got a chance to watch it. All I knew about it was that it had to do with a game show. That was it. Nothing else. Which was perfect, because sometimes I like going into a movie knowing absolutely nothing about it and having an open mind. The only thing I could relate to in this film was of the street children. In Brazil, we would meet many of them and visit the organization that would help them out. One day, we were walking and we would see these 12 year old boys sniffing glue and approach us with glazed and bloodshot eyes asking for money. They were so high, it was sad to see, but this was their way of life. The organization in my city in Brazil would help these children get off the street and get them help. It was interesting to hear their stories of life on the streets and their hopes and dreams. In Rio, when I was 12 years old, my mom and I were surrounded by some street boys who wanted to steal our watches and money. They didn’t take much, but they are smart in how they work together as a team in robbing people. Many of them would wear 2 t-shirts when they robbed people. Once they ran off with the money, they would take the first shirt off exposing a different color underneath as not to be identified by the eye-witness of the robbed. Is this movie worth watching? Yes, and that is my final answer.