Monday, December 15, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Okay. I made the maddening drive to Scottsdale yesterday just to see a movie that wasn't preordained to be drivel, and while I deeply resent having to drive across the Valley for the privilege of watching something good, the movie justified the gas.

I arrived in plenty of time to make it in to see my selection, Slumdog Millionaire. I parked my ragged convertible in a lot next to the one that was reserved for Neiman Marcus Valet Parking (just so you get an idea of what the neighborhood was like!), and with time to spare I sat out in the car and made a couple of calls. Each of the five movies at this theatre was an "art" type of show, so crowding shouldn't have been a problem - but it was. I bought my ticket fifteen minutes before showtime and learned that I would have to take a seat in the front two rows. Lucky me - I managed to get a center seat in the second row. (So today my neck is still stiff!) The place was packed with rich old toadies who were all there to learn about life in the slums of urban India while collecting cultural tidbits to be shared at cocktail parties. As it turned out, me and the other old toadies made a good decision in selecting that particular movie.

Dev Patel is an amazing young actor who has been a featured cast member in the BBC comedy/drama Skins during its first season. And while the face of this eighteen-year-old is becoming familiar to many viewers of British television, the role of Jamal in Slumdog Millionaire is destined to lift his star much higher.

Jamal, the central character in this movie, is a contestant on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. His run on the show is so successful that he is picked up by the police before the final round. The police beat and torture him to find out how a poor Indian with almost no formal education managed to get the answers to the difficult questions. In explaining how he acquired the answer to each question though his life experiences, Jamal provides deep insight into the lives of poor Indians in the teeming mass of humanity that is Mumbai.

Slumdog is the story of two brothers, orphaned as little boys and growing up by their wits, and an orphaned girl who becomes a significant part of their lives. This movie shows it all: pollution, corruption, cruelty, gangsters, fear, jealousy, sacrifice, and love - all tied together in the emergence of a modern state. As the characters grow, so grows the nation. It was easy to leave the theatre feeling positive about Jamal's future and the future of his country.

Slumdog Millionaire was a very emotionally satisfying experience, even from the second row!

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