Slumdog Millionaire

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Slumdog Millionaire

UK Theatrical release poster
Directed by Danny Boyle
Loveleen Tandan (co-director: India)
Produced by Christian Colson
Written by Simon Beaufoy
Starring Dev Patel
Freida Pinto
Madhur Mittal
Tanay Chheda
Ayush Mahesh Khedekar
Azharuddin Ismail
Rubina Ali
Anil Kapoor
Irrfan Khan
Music by A.R. Rahman
Cinematography Anthony Dod Mantle
Editing by Chris Dickens
Studio Celador Films
Distributed by Pathé Pictures International (UK/Europe)
Fox Searchlight Pictures (US/Canada)
Warner Bros. Pictures (in association)
Release date(s) 12 November 2008 (US, limited)
18 December 2008 (Australia)
9 January 2009 (UK)
23 January 2009 (US, wide)
23 January 2009 (India)
Running time 120 min.
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $15 million [1]
Gross revenue $310,861,650 [1]

Slumdog Millionaire is a 2008 British film directed by Danny Boyle, written by Simon Beaufoy, and co-directed in India by Loveleen Tandan.[2] It is an adaptation of the novel Q & A (2005) by Indian author and diplomat Vikas Swarup.

Set and filmed in India, Slumdog Millionaire tells the story of a young man from the slums of Mumbai who appears on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (Kaun Banega Crorepati, mentioned in the Hindi version) and exceeds people's expectations, arousing the suspicions of the game show host and of law enforcement officials.

After its world premiere at Telluride Film Festival and subsequent screenings at the Toronto International Film Festival and the London Film Festival,[3] Slumdog Millionaire initially had a limited North American release on 12 November 2008 by Fox Searchlight Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures, to critical acclaim and awards success. It later had a nationwide grand release in the United Kingdom on 9 January 2009 and in the United States on 23 January 2009.[4] It premiered in Mumbai on 22 January 2009.[5]

Slumdog Millionaire was nominated for ten Academy Awards in 2009 and won eight, the most for any film of 2008, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score and Best Original Song.

It also won five Critics' Choice Awards, four Golden Globes, and seven BAFTA Awards, including Best Film. Slumdog Millionaire has stirred controversy concerning language use, its portrayals of Indians and Hinduism, and the welfare of its child actors.


[edit] Plot

Set in 2006, the film opens in Mumbai with a police constable torturing Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), a former street child from the Juhu slums. In the opening scene, a title card is presented: "Jamal Malik is one question away from winning 20 million rupees. How did he do it? (A) He cheated, (B) He's lucky, (C) He's a genius, (D) It is written." Jamal is a contestant on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (Kaun Banega Crorepati) hosted by Prem Kumar (Anil Kapoor). He has already won 10,000,000 rupees (about US$200,000) and has made it to the final question, for 20,000,000 rupees, scheduled for the next day. Following up on a tip-off from Prem Kumar, the police now suspect Jamal of cheating, because the other possibilities -- that he has a vast knowledge, or that he is very lucky -- seem unlikely.

Jamal then explains that, while at least the question about Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan was very simple, he knew the answers of most questions by chance, because of things that happened in his life, conveyed in a series of flashbacks documenting the details of his childhood. This includes scenes of him obtaining Bachchan's autograph, the death of his mother during anti-Muslim violence (rekindling memory of the 1993 anti-Muslim attacks in Mumbai in the slums),[6] and how he and his brother Salim befriended Latika (Rubina Ali). He refers to Salim and himself as Athos and Porthos, and Latika as the third Musketeer.

In Jamal's flashback, the children are eventually discovered by Maman (Ankur Vikal) while they are living in the trash heaps. Maman is a gangster (a fact they do not actually know at the time they meet him) who pretends to run an orphanage in order to "collect" street children so that he can ultimately train them to beg for money. Salim is groomed to become a part of Maman’s operation and is asked to bring Jamal to Maman in order to be blinded (which would improve his income potential as a singing beggar). Salim protects his brother, and the three children try to escape, but only Salim and Jamal are able to do so, catching up to a train which is departing. Latika catches up and takes Salim's hand, but Salim purposely lets go, and she is left behind as the train accelerates away.

The brothers eke out a living, traveling on top of trains, selling goods, picking pockets, and cheating naive tourists at the Taj Mahal by pretending to be tour guides. Jamal eventually insists that they return to Mumbai since he wishes to locate Latika, which annoys Salim. They eventually find her, discovering that she had been raised by Maman to be a culturally talented prostitute whose virginity will fetch a high price. The brothers attempt to rescue her, but Maman intrudes, and in the resulting conflict Salim draws a gun and kills Maman. Salim then uses the fact that he killed Maman to obtain a job with Javed (Mahesh Manjrekar), a rival crime lord. Salim returns to the room where the three were staying and orders Jamal to leave. Jamal, knowing his brother is here to claim Latika as his own, attacks his brother violently before being overturned by Salim and confronted by a revolver as Salim threatens to kill him. Latika intervenes, accepting her fate with Salim and in the process breaking Jamal's heart.

Years later, Jamal has a position as a "chai-wallah" (a boy or young man who serves tea) at a call center. When he is asked to cover for a co-worker for a couple of minutes, he searches the database for Salim and Latika and succeeds in getting in touch with Salim, who has become a high-ranking lieutenant in Javed’s organization. Jamal confronts a regretful Salim on tense terms. Jamal asks him where Latika is. Salim, annoyed, responds she's "long gone." Salim invites Jamal to live with him, and after Jamal follows him to Javed's house, he sees Latika (Freida Pinto) there. He bluffs his way in, pretending initially to be a chef and then later a dishwasher. Jamal and Latika have an emotional reunion, but elation quickly turns to despair after Jamal discovers that Latika is betrothed to Javed. Upon discovering this, Jamal tries to persuade Latika to leave. She rebuffs his advances and insists that he forget about her and leave, but he tells her that he loves her and promises to wait for her every day at 5 p.m. at Mumbai's largest train station, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (C.S.T.), until she comes. On the first day that Jamal waits there, Latika attempts to rendezvous with him, but she is recaptured by Salim and Javed's men. Javed slashes her cheek with a knife as Salim drives off, leaving a furious Jamal behind with a crowd of onlookers.

Jamal again loses contact with Latika when Javed moves to another house outside of Mumbai. In another attempt to find Latika, Jamal tries out for the popular game show because he knows that she will be watching. He makes it to the final question, despite the hostile attitude of the host who feeds Jamal a wrong answer during a break. At the end of the show, Jamal has one question left to win two crore, or 20 million rupees (about $400,000 U.S.), but the host calls the police and Jamal is taken into police custody, where he is tortured as the police attempt to learn how he, a simple "slumdog," could know the answers to so many questions. After Jamal tells his whole story, explaining how his life experiences coincidentally enabled him to know the answer to each question, the police inspector calls Jamal's explanation "bizarrely plausible" and, knowing he's not in it for the money, allows him to return to the show for the final question.

At Javed's safehouse, Latika watches the news coverage of Jamal's miraculous run on the show. Salim gives Latika his phone and the keys to his car. He urges her to run away and to "forgive him for what he has done." The final question asked of Jamal is to name the third musketeer in the story of The Three Musketeers. When Jamal uses his Phone-A-Friend lifeline to call Salim, Latika barely answers the phone in time and they reconnect. She does not know the answer to the final question either but, after telling Jamal that she is safe, she also tells him in unsubtitled Hindi, "I'm yours" just before the allowed phone connection time runs out, and is disconnected. Jamal guesses the correct answer (Aramis) to the question of the one Musketeer whose name they never learned, and wins the grand prize. Simultaneously, Salim is discovered to have helped Latika escape and allows himself to be killed in a bathtub full of money after shooting and killing Javed. Salim's last words are "God is great." Later that night, Jamal and Latika meet at the railway station and they share a kiss. It is then revealed that the correct answer to the opening question is "D) it is written," implying that it is destiny. During the end credits, in a scene reminiscent of many Bollywood musicals, they -- along with dozens of bystanders and even the juvenile versions of themselves -- dance in the C.S.T. train station to the song "Jai Ho," the title of which epitomizes victory.

[edit] Differences from the book "Q & A"

The Bombay Hindu-Muslim riots play no role in the book, as the ethnic or religious heritage of the main character is uncertain. In the book, the character of Jamal is instead named 'Ram Mohammad Thomas.' He has been given a Hindu name, Muslim name, and Christian name by the village elders in order to maintain the balance among all the religious communities after his mother abandons him at birth. Unlike Jamal, Ram does not have a biological brother, and instead Salim is his best friend in the novel. He grows up in an orphanage, and his only 'brothers' are his fellow orphans. He never meets his mother. Ram is adopted by a Christian priest as a youth, which is how he learns English, and then is nearly molested by a visiting priest. The priest scenes are not included in the film script, and the movie does not explain how Jamal learns fluent English. Latika is not his childhood friend in the book but rather a prostitute named Nita with whom Ram falls in love when he visits a brothel at age 17.

[edit] Production

Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy wrote Slumdog Millionaire based on the Boeke Prize-winning and Commonwealth Writers' Prize-nominated novel Q & A by Vikas Swarup.[7] To hone the script, Beaufoy made three research trips to India and interviewed street children, finding himself impressed with their attitudes. The screenwriter said of his goal for the script: "I wanted to get (across) the sense of this huge amount of fun, laughter, chat, and sense of community that is in these slums. What you pick up on is this mass of energy."

By the summer of 2006, British production companies Celador Films and Film4 Productions invited director Danny Boyle to read the script of Slumdog Millionaire. Boyle initially hesitated, since he was not interested in making a film about Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, which was produced by Celador.[8] However, Boyle soon found out that the screenwriter was Beaufoy, who had written The Full Monty (1997), one of the director's favorite British films, and decided to revisit the script.[9] Boyle was impressed by how Beaufoy wove the multiple storylines from Swarup's book into one narrative, and the director decided to commit to the project. The film was projected to cost US$15 million, so Celador sought a U.S. distributor to share costs. Fox Searchlight Pictures made an initial offer that was reportedly in the $2 million range, but Warner Independent Pictures made a $5 million offer to win rights to the picture.[8]

Gail Stevens came on board to oversee casting globally. Stevens had worked with Boyle throughout his career and was well-known for discovering new talent. Meredith Tucker was appointed to cast out of the US. The film-makers then travelled to Mumbai in September 2007 with a partial crew and began hiring local cast and crew for production in Karjat. Originally appointed as one of the five casting directors in India, Loveleen Tandan has stated that she "suggested to Danny and Simon Beaufoy, the writer of Slumdog, that it was important to do some of it in Hindi to bring the film alive [...] They asked me to pen the Hindi dialogues which I, of course, instantly agreed to do. And as we drew closer to the shoot date, Danny asked me to step in as the co-director."[10] Boyle then decided to translate nearly a third of the film's English dialogue into Hindi. The director fibbed to Warner Independent's president that he wanted 10% of the dialogue in Hindi, and she approved of the change. Filming locations included shooting in Mumbai's megaslum and in shantytown parts of Juhu, so film-makers controlled the crowds by befriending onlookers.[8] Filming began on 5 November 2007.[11]

In addition to Swarup's original novel Q & A, the film was also inspired by Indian cinema.[12][13] Tandan has referred to Slumdog Millionaire as an homage to Hindi commercial cinema, noting that "Simon Beaufoy studied Salim-Javed's kind of cinema minutely."[12] Boyle has cited the influence of several Bollywood films set in Mumbai.[14] Satya (1998) (screenplay co-written by Saurabh Shukla, who plays Constable Srinivas in Slumdog Millionaire) and Company (2002) (based on the D-Company) both offered "slick, often mesmerizing portrayals of the Mumbai underworld" and displayed realistic "brutality and urban violence." Boyle has also stated that the chase in one of the opening scenes of Slumdog Millionaire was based on a "12-minute police chase through the crowded Dharavi slum" in Black Friday (2004) (adapted from S. Hussein Zaidi's book of the same name about the 1993 Bombay bombings).[13][15][16][17] Deewaar (1975), which Boyle described as being "absolutely key to Indian cinema," is a crime film based on the Bombay gangster Haji Mastan, portrayed by Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan, whose autograph Jamal seeks at the beginning of Slumdog Millionaire.[13] Anil Kapoor noted that some scenes of the film "are like Deewaar, the story of two brothers of whom one is completely after money while the younger one is honest and not interested in money."[18] Boyle has cited other Indian films as influences in subsequent interviews.[19][20] The rags-to-riches, underdog theme underlying the film was also a recurring theme in classic Bollywood movies from the 1950s through to the 1980s, when "India worked to lift itself from hunger and poverty."[21] Other classic Bollywood tropes in the film include "the fantasy sequences" and the montage sequence where "the brothers jump off a train and suddenly they are seven years older".[20]

Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan, the host of last episode of Kaun Banega Crorepati (the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?) aired prior to the release of this movie, was initially offered the role of the show's host in the film, but he ultimately turned it down (the role is played by another Bollywood star, Anil Kapoor).[22][23][24] Paul Smith, the executive producer of Slumdog Millionaire and the chairman of Celador Films, had previously owned the international rights to Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?[25]

[edit] Cast

  • Dev Patel as Jamal Malik, the protagonist, a Muslim boy born and raised in the poverty of Mumbai.[26] Boyle considered hundreds of young male actors, and he found that Bollywood leads were generally "strong, handsome hero-types." Indian actor Ruslaan Mumtaz was almost selected for the role, but the producer of the film "found Ruslaan too good looking for the role" and not the personality they were looking for.[27] Boyle's daughter pointed Dev Patel out from the British television ensemble drama Skins, of which he was a cast member.[8][11]
  • Freida Pinto as Latika, the girl with whom Jamal is in love. Pinto was an Indian model who had not starred in a feature film before.[8] Regarding the "one of a kind" scarf she wears, designer Suttirat Anne Larlarb says, "I wanted to bookend the journey—to tie her childhood yellow dress to her final look."[28]
  • Madhur Mittal as Salim, Jamal's elder brother.
    • Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail as Younger Salim. Azharuddin is a child from the Mumbai slums in real life.[29]
    • Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala as Early Teenage Salim
  • Anil Kapoor as Prem Kumar, the game show host. Boyle initially wanted Indian actor Shahrukh Khan to play the role, but things didn't work out. Khan is the real life host of the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Kapoor has also starred as a guest on the show with Amitabh Bachchan and won Rs 5,000,000. [30]
  • Irrfan Khan as the Police Inspector
  • Saurabh Shukla as Constable Srinivas
  • Mahesh Manjrekar as Javed
  • Ankur Vikal as Maman
  • Rajendranath Zutshi as the Millionaire show producer
  • Sanchita Choudhary as Jamal's mother
  • Shah Rukh Munshi as a slum kid. Shah Rukh is a child from the Mumbai slums in real life.[21]
  • Mozhim Shakim Sheikh Qureshi as a crippled slum kid. Mozhim Shakim is a child from the Mumbai slums in real life.[29]
  • Janet de Vigne as the German tourist at the Taj Mahal.
  • Devesh Rawal as the boy in costume as the God Rama, painted blue.

[edit] Release and box office performance

In August 2007 Warner Independent Pictures acquired the North American rights and Pathé the international rights to distribute Slumdog Millionaire theatrically.[11] However, in May 2008, Warner Independent Pictures was shut down, with all of its projects being transferred to Warner Bros. Pictures, its parent studio. Warner Bros. doubted the commercial prospects of Slumdog Millionaire and suggested that it would go straight to DVD without a U.S. theatrical release.[31] In August 2008, the studio began searching for buyers for various productions, to relieve its overload of end-of-the-year films.[32] Halfway through the month, Warner Bros. entered into a pact with Fox Searchlight Pictures to share distribution of the film, with Fox Searchlight buying 50% of Warner Bros.'s interest in the movie and handling U.S. distribution.[33]

Following the film's success at the 81st Academy Awards, the film topped the worldwide box office (barring North America), grossing $16 million from 34 markets in the week following the Academy Awards.[34] As of 31 March 2009, the film has grossed $292,232,507 worldwide.[1]

[edit] North America

Slumdog Millionaire was first shown at the Telluride Film Festival on 30 August 2008, where it was positively received by audiences, generating "strong buzz".[35] The film also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival on 7 September 2008, where it was "the first widely acknowledged popular success" of the festival,[36] winning the People's Choice Award.[37] Slumdog Millionaire debuted with a limited North American release on 12 November 2008, followed by a nationwide release in the United States on 23 January 2009.[38]

After debuting on a Wednesday, the film grossed an "impressive" $360,018 in 10 theaters in its first weekend, a "strong" average of $36,002 per theater.[39][40] In its second weekend, it expanded to 32 theaters and made $947,795, or an average of $29,619 per theater, representing a drop of only 18%.[39] In the 10 original theatres that it was released in, viewership went up 16%, and this is attributed to strong word-of-mouth.[41] The film expanded into wide release on 25 December 2008 at 614 theaters and grossed $5,647,007 over the extended Christmas weekend.[38] Following its success at the 81st Academy Awards, the film's takings increased by 43%,[42] the most for any film since Titanic (1997).[43] In the weekend of 27 February to 1 March, the film reached its widest release at 2,943 theaters.[1] As of 31 March 2009, the film has grossed $139,341,484 at the North American box office.[1]

[edit] Europe

The film released in the United Kingdom on 9 January 2009, and opened at #2 at the UK box office.[44] The film reached #1 in its second weekend and set a UK box office record, as the film's takings increased by 47%. This is the "biggest ever increase for a UK saturation release," breaking "the record previously held by Billy Elliot's 13%." This record-breaking "ticket surge" in the second weekend came after Slumdog Millionaire won four Golden Globes and received eleven BAFTA nominations. The film grossed £6.1 million in its first eleven days of release in the UK.[45] The takings increased by another 7% the following weekend, bringing the film's gross up to £10.24 million for its first seventeen days in the UK,[46][47] and up to £14.2 million in its third week.[48]

As of 20 February 2009, the film's UK box office gross was £22,973,110,[49] making it "the eighth biggest hit at UK cinemas of the past 12 months."[50] As of 2 March 2009, following its success at the 81st Academy Awards where it won eight Oscars, the film has returned to #1 at the UK box office, grossing £26 million as of 2 March 2009.[51]

The film's success at the Academy Awards led to it seeing large increases in takings elsewhere in Europe the following week. Its biggest single country increase was in Italy, where it was up 556% from the previous week. The takings in France and Spain also increased by 61% and 73% respectively. During the same week, the film debuted in other European countries with successful openings: in Croatia it grossed $170,419 from 10 screens, making it the biggest opening there in the last four months; and in Poland it opened in second place with a gross of $715,677. The film was released in Sweden on 6 March 2009 and in Germany on 19 March 2009.[34]

[edit] Asia-Pacific

[edit] India

In India, the premiere of Slumdog Millionaire took place in Mumbai on 22 January 2009 and was attended by major personalities of the Indian film industry, with more than a hundred attending this event.[52] A dubbed Hindi version, Slumdog Crorepati (स्लमडॉग करोड़पति), was also released in India in addition to the original version of the film.[53] Originally titled Slumdog Millionaire: Kaun Banega Crorepati, the name was shortened for legal reasons. Loveleen Tandan, who supervised the dubbing, stated: "All the actors from the original English including Anil Kapoor, Irrfan Khan and Ankur Vikal dubbed the film. We got a boy from Chembur Pradeep Motwani to dub for the male lead Dev Patel. I didn't want any exaggerated dubbing. I wanted a young unspoilt voice."[54]

Fox Searchlight released 351 prints of the film across India for its full release there on 23 January 2009.[55] It earned Rs. 2,35,45,665 in its first week at the Indian box office,[56] or $2.2 million according to Fox Searchlight. Though not as successful as major Bollywood releases in India during its first week, this was the highest weekend gross for any Fox film and the third highest for any Western release in the country, trailing only Spider-Man 3 (2007) and Casino Royale (2006).[55] In its second week, the film's gross rose to Rs. 3,04,70,752 at the Indian box office.[56]

A few analysts have offered their opinions about the film's performance at the Indian box office. Trade analyst Komal Nahta commented, "There was a problem with the title itself. Slumdog is not a familiar word for majority Indians." In addition, trade analyst Amod Mehr has stated that with the exception of Anil Kapoor, the film lacks recognizable stars and that "the film ... is not ideally suited for Indian sentiment." A cinema owner commented that "to hear slum boys speaking perfect English doesn't seem right but when they are speaking in Hindi, the film seems much more believable." The dubbed Hindi version, Slumdog Crorepati, did better at the box office, and additional copies of that version were released.[57] Following the film's success at the 81st Academy Awards, the film's takings in India increased by 470% the following week, bringing its total up to $6.3 million that week.[34] As of 15 March 2009, Slumdog Crorepati has grossed Rs. 15,86,13,802 at the Indian box office.[58]

[edit] Elsewhere

The film's success at the Academy Awards led to it seeing large increases in takings elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region. In Australia, the takings increased by 53%, bringing the film up to second place there. In Hong Kong, the film debuted taking $1 million in its opening weekend, making it the second biggest opening of the year there. The film was released in Japan on 18 April 2009 and in South Korea on 19 March 2009. It released in China on 26 March 2009 and is set to be released in Vietnam on 10 April 2009.[34]

[edit] Critical reception

Academy Awards record
1. Best Picture
2. Best Director, Danny Boyle
3. Best Adapted Screenplay, Simon Beaufoy
4. Best Cinematography, Anthony Dod Mantle
5. Best Original Score, A. R. Rahman
6. Best Original Song - "Jai Ho", A. R. Rahman and Gulzar
7. Best Film Editing, Chris Dickens
8. Best Sound Mixing, Resul Pookutty, Richard Pyke, and Ian Tapp
BAFTA Awards record
1. Best Film, Christian Colson
2. Best Director, Danny Boyle
3. Best Adapted Screenplay, Simon Beaufoy
4. Best Cinematography, Anthony Dod Mantle
5. Best Film Music, A. R. Rahman
6. Best Editing, Chris Dickens
7. Best Sound, Glenn Freemantle, Resul Pookutty, Richard Pyke, Tom Sayers, Ian Tapp
Golden Globe Awards record
1. Best Picture - Drama
2. Best Director, Danny Boyle
3. Best Screenplay, Simon Beaufoy
4. Best Original Score, A. R. Rahman

[edit] Awards and honours

Slumdog Millionaire is highly acclaimed, named in the top ten lists of various newspapers.[59] On 22 February 2009 the film won eight out of ten Academy Awards it was nominated for, including the Best Picture and Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Mixing, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, and Best Original Song (two songs were nominated from the film; "Jai Ho" won the award), losing only Best Sound Editing to The Dark Knight. It is only the eighth film ever to win eight Academy Awards [60] and the eleventh Best Picture Oscar winner without a single acting nomination. [61]

The film also won all four of the Golden Globe Awards it was nominated for, including Best Drama Film; five of the six Critics' Choice Awards for which it was nominated; and seven of the eleven BAFTA Awards for which it was nominated, including Best Film.

[edit] Reactions from the Western world

Slumdog Millionaire has been critically acclaimed in the Western world. As of 21 February 2009, Rotten Tomatoes has given the film a 94% rating with a 186 fresh and twelve rotten reviews. The average score is 8.2/10.[62] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film has received an average score of 86, based on 36 reviews.[63] Movie City News shows that the film appeared in 123 different top ten lists, out of 286 different critics lists surveyed, the 3rd most mentions on a top ten list of any film released in 2008.[64] Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave the film three out of five stars, stating that "despite the extravagant drama and some demonstrations of the savagery meted out to India's street children, this is a cheerfully undemanding and unreflective film with a vision of India that, if not touristy exactly, is certainly an outsider's view; it depends for its full enjoyment on not being taken too seriously." He also pointed out that the film is co-produced by Celador Films, which own the rights to the original Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, and claimed that “it functions as a feature-length product placement for the programme.”[65][66] A few critics also panned the film. Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle opined: "Slumdog Millionaire has a problem in its storytelling. The movie unfolds in a start-and-stop way that kills suspense, leans heavily on flashbacks and robs the movie of most of its velocity.... [T]he whole construction is tied to a gimmicky narrative strategy that keeps Slumdog Millionaire from really hitting its stride until the last 30 minutes. By then, it's just a little too late."[67] Eric Hynes of IndieWIRE called it "bombastic", "a noisy, sub-Dickens update on the romantic tramp's tale," and "a goofy picaresque to rival Forrest Gump" in its morality and romanticism.[68]

[edit] Reactions from India and Indian diaspora

[edit] Praise

The film has been a subject of discussion among a variety of people in India and the Indian diaspora. In general, Indian film critics have "largely embraced the movie."[55] Nikhat Kazmi of the Times of India called it "a piece of riveting cinema, meant to be savoured as a Cinderella-like fairy tale, with the edge of a thriller and the vision of an artist." She also argued against criticism of the film, stating: "it was never meant to be a documentary on the down and out in Dharavi. And it isn't."[69] Renuka Vyavahare of Indiatimes suggested that "the film is indeed very Indian" and that it is "one of the best English films set in India and revolving around the country’s most popular metropolis Mumbai."[70] Kaveree Bamzai of India Today called the film "feisty" and argued that it is "Indian at its core and Western in its technical flourish."[71] Anand Giridharadas argued in The New York Times that the film has a "freshness" which "portrays a changing India, with great realism, as something India long resisted being: a land of self-makers, where a scruffy son of the slums can, solely of his own effort, hoist himself up, flout his origins, break with fate." Giridharadas also called the film "a tribute to the irrepressible self."[72] Poorna Shetty stated in the The Guardian that "Boyle's depiction of Mumbai is spot on." She further stated that the film displays the "human aspect of the slums and the irrepressible energy and life force of the place" and offers "a breathing snapshot of the city that is always stripped of its warmth when depicted in the news."[73] Khalid Mohamed gave the film a full 5-star rating,[74] which he had previously given to very few films, including Satya (1998).[75]

[edit] Criticism by reviewers

One common criticism offered by film reviewers, in a Pygmalion-esque vein, springs from the accents of the stars when speaking English. For example, Mukul Kesavan of The Telegraph (Kolkata) stated that the film is "a hybrid so odd" (due to the decision to have the first third in Hindi and the remainder in English) "that it becomes hard for the Indian viewer to ... suspend disbelief" and that "the transition from child actors who in real life are slum children to young actors who are, just as clearly, middle-class anglophones is so abrupt and inexplicable that it subverts the ‘realism’ of the brilliantly shot squalor in which their lives play out."[76]

Another criticism is that, although the film was shot in India, it is not Indian in character. For example, critic Gautaman Bhaskaran questioned the "euphoria in India" after the film's release there, arguing that with a few exceptions, "there is nothing Indian about this film." He concluded that the film has "very little substance" and is "superficial and insensitive."[77]

A third argument is that Indians have made better and more realistic films about India. For example, Subhash K. Jha (author of The Essential Guide to Bollywood) remarked that this territory has already been covered by Indian filmmakers (Mira Nair in Salaam Bombay and Satyajit Ray in the Apu Trilogy).[78] Similarly, Soutik Biswas of the BBC argued that Slumdog Millionaire is an imitation of Indian films that have been "routinely ignored," suggesting that "if you are looking for gritty realism set in the badlands of Mumbai, order a DVD of a film called Satya by Ramgopal Verma. The 1998 feature on an immigrant who is sucked into Mumbai's colourful underworld makes Slumdog look like a slick, uplifting MTV docu-drama."[79] An American working as a journalist in India, Matthew Schneeberger, opined:

"Say an Indian director travelled to New Orleans for a few months to film a movie about Jamal Martin, an impoverished African American who lost his home in Hurricane Katrina, who once had a promising basketball career, but who -- following a drive-by shooting -- now walks with a permanent limp, whose father is in jail for selling drugs, whose mother is addicted to crack cocaine, whose younger sister was killed by gang-violence, whose brother was arrested by corrupt cops, whose first born child has sickle cell anaemia, and so on. The movie would be widely panned and laughed out of theatres."[80]

Finally, a fourth argument is that a "happy ending" film about slum-dwellers is inherently misleading. For example, Sudip Mazumdar of Newsweek wrote:

"People keep praising the film's 'realistic' depiction of slum life in India. But it's no such thing. Slum life is a cage. It robs you of confidence in the face of the rich and the advantaged. It steals your pride, deadens your ambition, limits your imagination and psychologically cripples you whenever you step outside the comfort zone of your own neighborhood. Most people in the slums never achieve a fairy-tale ending." [81]

[edit] Criticism by filmmakers

Some Indian filmmakers have commented negatively on the film. Bollywood director and superstar Aamir Khan (whose film Taare Zameen Par was India's submission to the 2008 Academy Awards but not chosen as a finalist for Best Foreign Language Film)[82][83] stated in an interview with NDTV that he did not "see Slumdog... as an Indian film."[82][83] In a second interview with NDTV after the Oscar awards, Khan stated that "the film didn't work for me" and that "for someone who lives here, the film goes over the top." However, he did praise India's Oscar-winning Resul Pookutty in the interview [84] as well as India's Oscar-winners A. R. Rahman and Gulzar in his personal blog.[85] Khan also stated in an interview with CNN's TalkAsia that the film "didn’t touch me personally. Emotionally it didn’t do anything to me. And I suspect it is because I'm not used to watching Indians speak English. So you know, all these slum kids talking in English, and then the cop and …I find it very strange I'm like …it didn’t work for me because of that problem."[86]

Director and filmmaker Priyadarshan criticized Slumdog Millionaire as a "mediocre version of those commercial films about estranged brothers and childhood sweethearts that Salim-Javed used to write so brilliantly in the 1970s." He also stated that he viewed the film at the Toronto Film Festival and that "the Westerners loved it. All the Indian[s] hated it. The West loves to see us as a wasteland, filled with horror stories of exploitation and degradation. But is that all there is to our beautiful city of Mumbai?"[87] Similarly, filmmaker Aadesh Shrivastava claimed that the film's release in the United States led to the word "slumdog" being used as a slur against Indian Americans, criticizing the positive reaction by some Indians towards what he regarded as a film that directly attacks and insults India.[88]

[edit] Academic criticism

Some authors and scholars also responded negatively to the film. In his essay "A Fine Pickle" on film adaptations, novelist and critic Salman Rushdie argued that the plot of Swarup's novel Q & A is "a patently ridiculous conceit, the kind of fantasy writing that gives fantasy writing a bad name. It is a plot device faithfully preserved by the film-makers, and lies at the heart of the weirdly renamed Slumdog Millionaire. As a result the film, too, beggars belief." [89] He made similar statements about the film in a talk given at Emory University, arguing that the film's plot "piles impossibility on impossibility", [90] and in an earlier interview with The New York Times, where he conceded that he found the film "visually brilliant. But I have problems with the story line.... It just couldn’t happen. I’m not adverse to magic realism but there has to be a level of plausibility, and I felt there were three or four moments in the film where the storyline breached that rule."[91]

Rushdie also blasted Boyle's admission that he made the film in part because he was unfamiliar with India, challenging Boyle to imagine "an Indian film director making a movie about New York low-life and saying that he had done so because he knew nothing about New York and had indeed never been there. He would have been torn limb from limb by critical opinion. But for a first world director to say that about the third world is considered praiseworthy, an indication of his artistic daring. The double standards of post-colonial attitudes have not yet wholly faded away."[89]

Some critics argued that the movie is inferior to "homegrown" Indian product. Radha Chadha, co-author (with Paul Husband) of The Cult of the Luxury Brand: Inside Asia's Love Affair with Luxury, argued that while Slumdog Millionaire is entertaining, it is still a "masala film," the kind of Bollywood product which Indians grow up watching. As to its popularity in the West, she further suggested that what is "ordinary" (in terms of film genre) for an Indian audience "is extraordinary for the world" and that "the mesmerizing soft power of Bollywood which has kept a billion Indians enthralled for decades is touching the rest of the world."[92] Priya Joshi, an associate professor of English at Temple University, argued that the film's indebtedness to Bollywood cinema runs far deeper than the happy ending: "In the same way that Cinema Paradiso paid homage to the transformative power of Hollywood movies of the 1940s, Slumdog testifies to the power of Bollywood's blockbusters from the 1970s, and it's no accident that the first question on the quiz show is about the 1973 hit Zanjeer."[93] Ananda Mitra, professor of communication at Wake Forest University, described Slumdog Millionaire as a modern-day retelling of 1970s Bollywood films, citing Nasir Hussain's Yaadon Ki Baraat (1973) in particular.[94]

Like various reviewers, some academic critics remarked on the English accents in the film. For example, Smitha Radhakrishnan, assistant professor of sociology at Wellesley College, noted in UCLA's online Asia Pacific Arts journal that although the film offers "an action-packed, devastating, intriguing, and oddly beautiful world," it also contains notable "slip-ups," of which the "most glaring was the language. Despite the plausible explanation that Jamal and Salim picked up English, posing as tour guides at the Taj Mahal, it is highly implausible that they would come out of that experience speaking perfect British English, as Dev Patel does in portraying the grown-up Jamal. It's highly implausible that he would speak to Latika and Salim in English as an adult too."[95]

Still other critics focused on the film's lack of realism. Professor Vrinda Nabar, the former chair of English at the University of Mumbai, argued that the film ignores the "complexity" of Mumbai as "a city in which sensitivity coexists with despair, commitment with indifference, activism with inaction, and humanism with the inhumane."[96] Shyamal Sengupta, a professor of film studies at the Whistling Woods International Institute for Films, Media, Animationa and Media Arts in Mumbai, criticized the film for its stereotypical portrayals of Indians by calling it a "white man's imagined India. It's not quite snake charmers, but it's close. It's a poverty tour."[97] Matias Echanove and Rahul Srivastava are noted critically in The New York Times that the film misrepresents and stereotypes the Dharavi slum in Mumbai.[98]

[edit] Soundtrack

The Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack was composed by A. R. Rahman, who planned the score for over two months and completed it in two weeks.[99] Rahman won the 2009 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score and won two out of three nominations for the Academy Awards, including one for Best Original Score and one for Best Original Song. The song "O... Saya" got a nomination shared with M.I.A., and the song "Jai Ho" won the Oscar, which A. R. Rahman shared with lyricist Gulzar. The soundtrack was released on M.I.A.'s record label N.E.E.T. On Radio Sargam, film critic Goher Iqbal Punn termed the soundtrack Rahman's "magnum opus" which will acquaint "the entire world" with his artistry.[100]

[edit] Controversies

[edit] References

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  100. ^, "Movie Review: Slumdog Millionaire"

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