For those of you who I haven’t met, this is the Bruce Springsteen of Queens. But who I am isn’t important. What is important is that you see the new movie, Slumdog Millionaire.
From the pen of Simon Beufoy, based on the novel by Vikas Swarup and directed by the notorious Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire did something to me that a movie hasn’t done in a long time: kept me in almost constant surprise. If you don’t know the story, let me catch you up . . .
“The story of Jamal Malik (Patel), an 18 year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, who is about to experience the biggest day of his life. With the whole nation watching, he is just one question away from winning a staggering 20 million rupees on India’s ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?’ But when the show breaks for the night, police arrest him on suspicion of cheating; how could a street kid know so much? Desperate to prove his innocence, Jamal tells the story of his life in the slum where he and his brother grew up, of their adventures together on the road, of vicious encounters with local gangs, and of Latika (Pinto), the girl he loved and lost.”
Do you remember the first time you saw Star Wars? Or ET? Or Raiders of the Lost Arc? That feeling that a movie was bigger than you and even bigger than this world. It’s been so long, I think I forgot.
But somehow, with supreme writing, directing and riveting performances by Dev Patel, Freida Pinto and the entire cast, I thought “it could have been me” — if I grew up in an Indian slum and somehow made it onto “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” This story is what all great stories strive to be. It is very specific to Jamal’s journey, avoiding cliches, but also universal to every soul’s need to find his or her way.
In short, I am in awe of this film. It is powerful, touching and explosive. It may also be the first successful merging of the worlds of Bollywood, Hollywood and independent film. Within minutes, you know you are in a unique world of surprise and wonder, running from militant policeman with laughing 5-year-olds through the chaotic and colorful slums of Mumbai.
I am going to resist the temptation to put some kind of a “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” question reference to end this blog. But I will pose a question:
Do you want to feel the unlimited possibilities of being a kid in front of a movie screen again, long before Citibank and Sallie Mae and that nasty word “responsibility” took over your soul?
Then see this movie. See you in Mumbai.