I only just watched the movie, Slumdog Millionaire during the Easter break. No idea how I missed seeing this before.
At the end I watched the special features, which included the director etc talking about the making of the film. One thing that was said ruined a pretty important aspect of the movie for me.
But more about that later.
The film is wonderfully done. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a movie about the eighteen year old Jamal who is a contestant on the show ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’. (Indian version)
Jamal and his brother, Salim, were orphaned on the streets near their home when rightwing Hindus rushed from a train to kill the Muslims. They meet another street child – Latika – and Jamal wants her to be the ‘third musketeer’ in their group. They endure terrible hardships and witness shocking things. They are children of the ‘slums’ and no one believes that eighteen year old Jamal could possibly know the answers on the game show – and he is tortured to tell how he knows the answers.
Slumdog Millionaire is also the love story – against impossible odds – between Jamal and Latika.
I especially liked how the construct of the ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’ show allowed the story to be told in flashbacks. Jamal knows the answer to each question because the answer is burned into his memory.
The film is intense and gripping – child prostitutes and child street beggars populate the cities of the film – and we follow Jamal as he grows from child to teenager and attempts to hold onto everything that makes him human. There’s an authentic feel about the sets and characters. We want Jamal to succeed and find what he calls his destiny.
After the film, I watched the features. Fascinating hearing how the crew would be filming a scene in a location, only to come back the next day to finish the scene and find that walls had been constructed or torn down. The pace of building in India is apparently frenetic.
They spoke of casting Jamal. They were shown pictures of muscle-bound Indian men but they were not right for the part of Jamal. He had to be ordinary. And I liked that.
Then they began talking about Latika (Freida Pinto) and how she was cast. In so many words, they said it was important that she be heart-stoppingly beautiful, a woman you’d cross the oceans to find.
That’s when my jaw dropped. My thinking was that Jamal would have searched for Latika because of the bond and love forged when they were street children in the slums. They endured hell together.
Wouldn’t you think it be important that Latika be an ordinary girl too?
Come to think of it, Jamal and Salim’s mother was also beautiful.
It all just seemed out of place in this very raw, intense and authentic film. It doesn’t tarnish for me what was an incredible film – but I couldn’t see it again without thinking of the notion that physical beauty for women equals a higher value.