“What does it take to find a lost love?”
Slumdog Millionaire (2008) is a compelling story of a young man from the slums of Mumbai who joins India’s most popular game show in the hopes of finding his childhood love. The protagonist, Jamal Malik, lived a youth characteristic of the slums: playing in the streets from sunrise to sundown, speeding through narrow alleyways to escape the police, earning money in any way possible. His mother is killed during a Hindu-Muslim riot, and he and his brother are left to fend for themselves in the city. Jamal meets Latika, another waif, and together the three live in the garbage dumps of the city.
Through the course of the story, Jamal and Latika part ways, although his love for her never fades. That led to him joining the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, hoping that his childhood love would be watching and recognize him.
I found the story charming and tear-jerking. Jamal’s youth was portrayed dramatically—the loss of his mother, his having to fend for himself, and perhaps the most painful of all, being separated from his love. The pain that Jamal felt as he grew was etched in my mind; it was, at least for me, an extraordinary journey that punctuated the unfairness of life, but it was also heartwarming to see how the protagonist persevered. Even more heartwarming was his undomitable hope of being reunited with his Latika.
Perhaps the bitterest scene in the entire film was when Jamal finally found Latika in a lavish mansion. The sweetness of the moment—”Finally! After all these years!”—was difficult to ignore, but so was the bitterness of finding out that she was already married to a millionaire. Still determined to be with his lost love again, Jamal said that he’d wait for her—”at the train station, five o’clock every day, until you come”. As Latika led Jamal out of the mansion, he made one final appeal: “Run off with me,” to which she succintly replied, “I can’t.” Before the doors were slammed in his face, the words “I love you” left his lips, only to be returned with a “so what”. What could Jamal do but leave?
All things considered, Slumdog Millionaire is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while. It was considerably better than The Day the Earth Stood Still (which I found dull and didn’t provoke enough excitement), and would’ve been well worth the money if I’d watched it in a cinema. The improbabilities of the film—Jamal finding his Latika in the chaos of Mumbai and his win in Who Wants to be a Millionaire—played on the everlasting hope we place in the power of miracles. Jamal’s perseverance through the pain and anguish of his youth could be seen as a point of motivation: you can be what you want to be, no matter what. Most importantly, the all-encompassing power of love—the reason why the entire story was what it was, in my opinion—was exhibited masterfully in the eyes of Jamal who never stopped caring even after years of absence and uncertainty.
Glee, sadness, paradise and pain, Slumdog Millionaire had it all. The film receives a super-Deantastic A+.