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Updates:

Feb. 22:  Slumdog Millionaire just won 8 Academy Awards. CLICK HERE for the Oscar Results 2009.

Feb. 8:  Slumdog Millionaire has just won 7 BAFTA Awards including Best Picture and Best Director tonight in London, England.

Jan. 25:  Slumdog Millionaire has just won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.

Jan. 22:  Slumdog Millionaire just nominated for 10 Oscars including Best Picture. Click here to go to my Oscar Nominations Post.

Jan. 12:  Slumdog Millionaire just won 4 Golden Globes for Best Original Score, Best Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Motion Picture – Drama.

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A. O. Scott in his 2008 year-end article and podcast on the New York Times website gives credits to movies that explore the element of hope. How fitting it is to start the new year by watching ‘hopeful movies’. In this turbulent time of ours, ‘Hope’ might just be the word of the year for us all.

Slumdog Millionaire not only explores the idea of hope, it builds its whole momentum on this element, and its fuel is none other than ‘love’.  The movie is a modern day fairy tale, an exciting concoction bubbling with fantastic visuals and sounds, a post-modern alchemy of culture, language, and place. But what unifies is the aspiration of requited love and shattered souls redeemed.

Directed by Danny Boyle (28 Days Later, 2002, Trainspotting, 1996) and based on Vikas Swarup’s award winning novel Q & A, which has been translated into 36 languages, the film has garnered high acclaims in film festivals. Just four months into its limited release, Slumdog Millionaire has already won 20 awards, and is nominated for 4 Golden Globes including Best Picture, and 2  SAG Awards, and is a possible contender for the Oscars.

Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) grows up in the slums of Mumbai, India. He and his brother Salim watch their mother killed by mobs. The two boys have to fend for themselves living on the streets. They survive the deplorable conditions with tact, style and grace, until Salim falls for the gang. Jamal has a childhood sweetheart Latika (Freida Pinto). In a heart wrenching episode, she gets separated from the brothers. Her fate seems to be sealed as a young girl on the street.

Years pass but Jamal’s heart still yearns for Latika. One thing that unites all Indians seems to be the popular quiz show “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”. With his heart firmly fixed on reaching out to his long lost love  somewhere out there in the mass populace of India, Jamal gets on the show, hoping Latika would see him. Latika at this time is in the firm grip of a gang lord, her hope of freedom is dismal.

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Yet, screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, 2008 ) and director Danny Boyle gratify their viewers with some unexpected twists and turns, allowing us to savour an exhilarating end to the story. With their seamless, non-linear way of storytelling, framed by an upbeat musical score, they have turned what could be just another love story into a fresh and engrossing tale.

While the film features all Indian actors and some Bollywood stars, shot in Mumbai, many dialogues in Hindi with English subtitles, I don’t feel the cultural elements particularly stand out, drawing attention to themselves. Herein lies the success of the film. It has not led me to feel like I am watching something ‘foreign’ or ‘ethnic’, like some National Geographic features. The sense of place and subject matter, plus the amiable cast have all worked together effectively to transmit a universal appeal. The only Bollywood moment is when the end credits roll. Do stay for that.

Slumdog Millionaire evokes reminiscence of similar successful though lesser known titles like ‘Chop Shop’ (2007) and ‘Born into Brothels’ (2004), but on a grander scale, with an explicit message of hope and an unabashed resolution of requited love.

How satisfying! You’ll come out rejuvenated. The skeptic in you might say it’s only a movie, a fantasy too…  Mind you, not all fantasies end well. With some, the darkness can loom for days. Be good to yourself, start the year on a cheery note. Watch a ‘hopeful movie’. Love and Hope can sustain and triumph. As simple as that.

~ ~ ~½ Ripples


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