July 8th 2009 11:25
The movie opens on a young man in the “Hot Seat” on the Indian game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”. The camera swirls around the player and the Host in a frenzy of excitement and confetti.
Next we are taken to a sparsely furnished room where a man is hanging from the ceiling by his arms, whilst a malevolent looking fat man is circling him asking questions.
The man hanging from the rafters is the same one that was just moments ago in the “Hot Seat”. The young man I am referring to is known as Jamal, and his crime is that he has reached a level of the game show that no Doctor, Teacher or Professor previously has.
Jamal works in a call centre as the male version of a “Tea Lady”, and has been taken into custody by the Police under suspicion of cheating on the show.
Through harsh interrogation, Jamal is constantly asked how he knows the answers, when everyone else has failed thus far, to which he says nothing. The Police Chief tries his best to extract the information from him, however, after not much success resorts to running electricity through Jamal’s body. After several moments of this, the only answer he can provide is “I just know the answers”.
Jamal is then unceremoniously dumped into a chair opposite the Chief’s desk as an ancient television and video player are set up. Still not convinced that Jamal is telling the truth, he makes him sit through each question again, and asks him to explain how he knew the answers.
We quickly discover that this movie is not just about Jamal, but also his brother Salim and their friend Latika, and how each question has a significant relevance to major turning points in their lives.
From the brutal murder of their parents during anti-muslim violence in Mumbai, to their separation after tracking down and freeing Latika from Maman (who pretends to run an orphanage, but in fact trains the children to beg) who Salim shoots dead.
Throughout the movie we see the intense difference in character between the two brothers, and the steady ascent of Salim’s vengeful nature which coincides with his assimilation into a life of crime.
We also see gradual and unavoidable love develop between Jamal and Latika.
The movie has its high points, but is mainly an exploration into a culture and world that most westerners would never experience, and shows the complete disregard for life that is evident in most third world nations.
Having said that, it was worth all the accolades and praises that have been heaped on this movie.
After 10 minutes of watching this movie I was glad of the country I live in.