Monday, February 23, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire Review

Slumdog Millionaire Review

Slumdog Millionaire is a 2008 British drama film directed by Danny Boyle, co-directed by Loveleen Tandan,[2] and written by Simon Beaufoy. It is an adaptation of the Boeke Prize-winning and Commonwealth Writers' Prize-nominated novel Q & A (2005) by Indian author and diplomat Vikas Swarup.

Set and filmed in India, Slumdog Millionaire tells the story of a young man from the slums of Mumbai who appears on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (Kaun Banega Crorepati, mentioned in the Hindi version) and exceeds people's expectations, arousing the suspicions of the game show host and of law enforcement officials.

After screenings at the Telluride Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival, Slumdog Millionaire initially had a limited North American release on November 12, 2008 by Fox Searchlight Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures, to critical acclaim and awards success. It later had a nationwide release in the United Kingdom on January 9, 2009 and in the United States on January 23, 2009.[3] It premiered in Mumbai on January 22, 2009.[4]

Slumdog Millionaire was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won eight, the most for any film that year, including Best Picture. It also won five Critics' Choice Awards, four Golden Globes, and seven BAFTA Awards, including Best Film. The film is also the subject of controversy concerning its portrayal of India and Hinduism as well as the welfare of its child actors.


The film opens with a police inspector (Irrfan Khan) in Mumbai, India, interrogating and torturing Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), a former street child from the Dharavi slums. At the opening scene, a title card is presented: "Jamal Malik is one question away from winning 20 Million Rupees. How did he do it? A) He cheated, B) He's lucky, C) He's a genius, D) It is written." At the end of the film, the answer is given. Jamal is a contestant on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire (Kaun Banega Crorepati) hosted by Prem Kumar (Anil Kapoor). Jamal has made it to the final question, scheduled for the next day, but the police are now accusing him of cheating, because the other possibilities, that he has a vast knowledge, or that he is very lucky, both seem unlikely.

Jamal then explains that, while at least the question about Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan was very simple, he knew the answers of most questions by chance, because of things that happened in his life. This is conveyed in a series of flashbacks documenting the particulars of his childhood. This includes scenes of him obtaining the autograph of Amitabh Bachchan, the death of his mother during Hindu-Muslim riots in the slums, and how he and his brother Salim (Madhur Mittal) befriended the orphan girl Latika (Freida Pinto). As Jamal's favourite book from his short period in school was The Three Musketeers, he refers to Salim and himself as Athos and Porthos, and Latika as the third Musketeer.

The children are eventually discovered by Maman (Ankur Vikal) while they live in the trash heaps. Maman is a gangster (a fact they do not actually know at the time they meet him) who "collects" street children so that he can ultimately train them to beg for money. Salim is groomed to become a part of Maman’s operation and is asked to bring Jamal to Maman in order to be blinded (which would improve his income potential as a singing beggar). Salim rebels against Maman to protect his brother, and the three children try to escape, but only Salim and Jamal are successful as Salim purposely lets go of Latika's hand as she tries to board a train they are hopping while trying to escape. Latika is re-captured by Maman's organization and raised as a culturally talented prostitute whose virginity will fetch a high price.

The brothers eke out a living, traveling on top of trains, selling goods, pretending to be tour guides at the Taj Mahal, and pickpocketing. Jamal eventually insists that they return to Mumbai since he wishes to locate Latika. When he finds her working as a dancer in a brothel, the brothers attempt to rescue her, but Maman intrudes, and in the resulting conflict Salim draws a gun and kills Maman. Salim then uses the fact that he killed Maman to obtain a job with Javed (Mahesh Manjrekar), a rival crime lord. Salim claims Latika as his own and when Jamal protests, Salim threatens to kill him and Latika intervenes, accepting her fate with Salim and breaking Jamal's heart.

Years later, Jamal has a position as a "chai-wallah" (a boy or young man who serves tea) at a call centre. When he is asked to cover for a co-worker for a couple of minutes, he searches the database for Salim and Latika. He gets in touch with Salim, who has become a high-ranking lieutenant in Javed’s organization and confronts a regretful Salim on tense terms. Salim invites Jamal to live with him and, after following Salim to Javed's house, he sees Latika living there. He talks his way in as the new dishwasher and tries to convince Latika to leave. She rebuffs his advances, but he promises to be at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station every day at five p.m. for her. She tries to discourage him, but on the first day that Jamal waits there, Latika attempts to rendezvous with him, but is recaptured by Salim and Javed's men. One of the men then slashes her cheek with a knife, scarring her as Salim drives off.

Jamal again loses contact with Latika when Javed moves to another house. In another attempt to find Latika, Jamal tries out for the popular game show because he knows that she will be watching. He makes it to the final question, despite the hostile attitude of the host who feeds Jamal a wrong answer during a break. At the end of the show, Jamal has one question left to win 20 million, or two crore, rupees and is taken into police custody, where he is tortured as the police attempt to learn how Jamal, a simple "slumdog," could know the answers to so many questions. After Jamal tells his whole story, explaining how his life experiences coincidentally enabled him to know the answer to each question, the police inspector calls his explanation "bizarrely plausible" and allows Jamal to return to the show for the final question. At Javed's safehouse, Latika watches the news coverage of Jamal's miraculous run on the show. Salim gives Latika his phone, and the keys to his car, and urges her to run away. When Jamal uses his Phone-A-Friend lifeline to call Salim, Latika answers his phone and they reconnect. She does not know the answer to the final question either, but believing that "it is written," Jamal guesses the correct answer (Aramis) to the question of the one Musketeer whose name they never learned, and wins the grand prize. Simultaneously, Salim is discovered to have helped Latika escape and allows himself to be killed in a bathtub full of money after shooting and killing Javed. Salim's last words are "God is great." Later that night, Jamal and Latika meet at the railway station and they share a kiss. It is then revealed that the correct answer to the opening question is: D) it is written. Along with many others in the train station, they dance.


Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy wrote Slumdog Millionaire based on the Boeke Prize winning and Commonwealth Writers' Prize nominated novel Q & A by Vikas Swarup.[5] To hone the script, Beaufoy made three research trips to India and interviewed street children, finding himself impressed with their attitudes. The screenwriter said of his goal for the script: "I wanted to get (across) the sense of this huge amount of fun, laughter, chat, and sense of community that is in these slums. What you pick up on is this mass of energy." By the summer of 2006, British production companies Celador Films and Film4 invited director Danny Boyle to read the script Slumdog Millionaire. Boyle initially hesitated since he was not interested in making a film about Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?[6] Boyle soon found out that the screenwriter was Beaufoy, who had written The Full Monty (1997), one of the director's favorite British films, and decided to revisit the script.[7] Boyle was impressed by how Beaufoy wove the multiple storylines from Swarup's book into one narrative, and the director decided to commit to the project. The film was projected to cost US$15 million, so Celador sought a distributor to share costs. Fox Searchlight Pictures made an initial offer that was reportedly in the $2 million range, and Warner Independent Pictures made a $5 million offer that Fox Searchlight could not top.[6]

Gail Stevens came on board to oversee casting globally. Stevens has worked with Boyle throughout his career and is well-known for discovering new talent. Meredith Tucker was appointed to cast out of the US. The film-makers then travelled to Mumbai in September 2007 with a partial crew and began hiring local cast and crew for production in Karjat. Originally appointed as one of the five casting directors in India, Loveleen Tandan, has stated that she "suggested to Danny and Simon Beaufoy, the writer of Slumdog, that it was important to do some of it in Hindi to bring the film alive [...] They asked me to pen the Hindi dialogues which I, of course, instantly agreed to do. And as we drew closer to the shoot date, Danny asked me to step in as the co-director."[8] Boyle then decided to translate nearly a third of the film's English dialogue into Hindi. The director fibbed to Warner Independent's president that he wanted 10% of the dialogue in Hindi, and she approved of the change. Filming locations included shooting in Mumbai's megaslum and in shantytown parts of Juhu, so film-makers controlled the crowds by befriending onlookers.[6] Filming began on 5 November 2007.[9]

In addition to Swarup's original novel Q & A, the film was also inspired by Indian cinema.[10][11] Tandan has referred to Slumdog Millionaire as a homage to Hindi commercial cinema, noting that "The writer Simon Beaufoy studied Salim-Javed's kind of cinema minutely."[10] Boyle has cited the influence of the following Bollywood films set in Mumbai: Deewaar (1975) by Yash Chopra and Salim-Javed, Satya (1998) and Company (2002) by Ram Gopal Verma, and Black Friday (2004) by Anurag Kashyap. Satya (its screenplay was co-written by Saurabh Shukla, who plays Constable Srinivas in Slumdog Millionaire) and Company (based on the D-Company) both offered "slick, often mesmerizing portrayals of the Mumbai underworld" and displayed realistic "brutality and urban violence." Boyle has stated that the chase in one of the opening scenes of Slumdog Millionaire was based on a "12-minute police chase through the crowded Dharavi slum" in Black Friday (itself adapted from S. Hussein Zaidi's book of the same name about the 1993 Bombay bombings).[11][12][13][14] Deewaar, which Boyle described as being "absolutely key to Indian cinema," is a crime film based on the Bombay gangster Haji Mastan, portrayed by Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan, whose autograph Jamal sought at the beginning of Slumdog Millionaire.[11] Anil Kapoor noted that some scenes of the film "are like Deewaar, the story of two brothers of whom one is completely after money while the younger one is honest and not interested in money."[15] Some of the other Indian films cited by Boyle as reference points for the film include Satyajit Ray's Pather Panchali (1955), Mira Nair films such as Salaam Bombay! (1988), Ashutosh Gowarikar's Lagaan (2001), and Aamir Khan's Taare Zameen Par (2007).[16] The rags to riches underdog theme underlying the film was also a recurring theme in classic Bollywood movies from the 1950s through to the 1980s, when "India worked to lift itself from hunger and poverty."[17] Other classic Bollywood tropes in the film include "the fantasy sequences" and the montage sequence where "the brothers jump off a train and suddenly they are seven years older".[16]

Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan, the current host for Kaun Banega Crorepati (the Indian version of Who wants to Be a Millionaire?), was initially offered the role of the show's host in the film, but he eventually turned it down (the role was ultimately played by another Bollywood star Anil Kapoor).[18][19][20] Paul Smith, the executive producer of Slumdog Millionaire and the chairman of Celador Films, had previously owned the international rights to Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?[21]


* Dev Patel as Jamal Malik, the protagonist, a Muslim boy born and raised in the poverty of Mumbai.[22] Boyle considered hundreds of young male actors, although he found that Bollywood leads were generally "strong, handsome hero-types", not the personality he was looking for. Gail Stevens, the Casting Director, pointed him out from the British television ensemble drama Skins, of which Patel was a cast member.[6] The actor was cast in August 2007.[9] Patel is now represented by the United Talent Agency. The original choice for the role was Bollywood actor Ruslaan Mumtaz, but the producer of the film "found Ruslaan too good looking for the role and so he was replaced by Dev Patel."[23]
o Ayush Mahesh Khedekar as Youngest Jamal
o Tanay Chheda as Middle Jamal
* Freida Pinto as Latika, the girl with whom Jamal is in love. Pinto was an Indian model who had not starred in a feature film before.[6] Regarding the "one of a kind" scarf she wears, "designer Suttirat Anne Larlarb" says, "I wanted to bookend the journey--to tie her childhood yellow dress to her final look."[24] She is now represented by CAA.
o Rubina Ali as Youngest Latika
o Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar as Middle Latika
* Madhur Mittal as Salim, Jamal's elder brother.
o Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail as Youngest Salim
o Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala as Middle Salim
* Anil Kapoor as Prem Kumar, the game show host.[25]
* Irrfan Khan as the Police Inspector
* Saurabh Shukla as Constable Srinivas
* Mahesh Manjrekar as Javed
* Ankur Vikal as Maman
* Raj Zutshi as Millionaire show producer
* Sanchita Choudhary as Jamal's mother
* Shah Rukh Munshi as a slum kid [17]
* Mozhim Shakim Sheikh Qureshi as a crippled slum kid[26]

Release and box office performance

In August 2007 Warner Independent Pictures acquired the American and Pathé the international rights to distribute Slumdog Millionaire theatrically.[9] Though Warner Independent Pictures paid $5 million to acquire rights to the film, the studio was hesitant about its commercial prospects. In May 2008, Warner Independent Pictures shut down, initially suggesting that Slumdog Millionaire would go straight to DVD.[27] In August 2008, the studio began searching for a buyer to relieve its overload of films at the time.[28] Halfway through the month, Warner Independent Pictures and Fox Searchlight Pictures entered a pact to share distribution of the film with Fox Searchlight buying in a 50% stake.[29] As of 22 February 2009, the film has grossed $159,226,072 worldwide.[1]

North America

lumdog Millionaire was first shown at the Telluride Film Festival on 30 August 2008, where it was positively received by audiences, generating "strong buzz".[30] The film also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival on 7 September 2008, where it was "the first widely acknowledged popular success" of the festival,[31] winning the People's Choice Award.[32] Slumdog Millionaire debuted with a limited North American release on 12 November 2008, followed by a nationwide release in the United States on 23 January 2009.[33]

In its first week, the film grossed an "impressive" $350,434 in 10 theatres, a "strong" average of $35,043 per theatre.[34] In its second weekend, it expanded to 32 theatres and made $947,795, or an average of $29,619 per theatre, representing a drop of only 16%.[35] In the 10 original theatres that it was released in, viewership went up 16%, and this is attributed to strong word-of-mouth.[36] The film opened in wide release on 26 December 2008 at 614 theaters and grossed $4,301,870. In the weekend of 23-25 January 2009, the film reached the widest release at 1,411 theaters. As of 22 February 2009, the film has grossed $98,020,000 at the North American box office.[1]

United Kingdom

The film released in the United Kingdom on 9 January 2009, and opened at #2 at the UK box office.[37] The film reached #1 in its second weekend and set a UK box office record, as the film's takings increased by 47%. This is the "biggest ever increase for a UK saturation release," breaking "the record previously held by Billy Elliot's 13%." This record-breaking "ticket surge" in the second weekend came after Slumdog Millionaire won four Golden Globes and received eleven BAFTA nominations. The film grossed £6.1 million in its first eleven days of release in the UK.[38] The takings increased by another 7% the following weekend, bringing the film's gross up to £10.24 million for its first seventeen days in the UK,[39][40] and up to £14.2 million in its third week.[41] As of 13 February 2009, the film's UK box office gross is £19,984,021[42] and is expected to exceed £20 million.[39]


The Indian premiere of Slumdog Millionaire took place in Mumbai on 22 January 2009 and was attended by major personalities of the Indian film industry. More than a hundred Indian film personalities attended this event.[43] A dubbed Hindi version, Slumdog Crorepati (स्लमडॉग करोड़पति), was also released in India in addition to the original version of the film.[44] Originally titled, Slumdog Millionaire: Kaun Banega Crorepati, the name was shortened for legal reasons. Loveleen Tandan, who supervised the dubbing, stated: "All the actors from the original English including Anil Kapoor, Irrfan Khan and Ankur Vikal dubbed the film. We got a boy from Chembur Pradeep Motwani to dub for the male lead Dev Patel. I didn't want any exaggerated dubbing. I wanted a young unspoilt voice."[45]

Fox Searchlight released 351 prints of the film across India for its full release there on 23 January 2009.[46] It earned Rs. 2,35,45,665 in its first week at the Indian box office,[47] or $2.2 million according to Fox Searchlight. Though not as successful as major Bollywood releases in India during its first week, this was the highest weekend gross for any Fox film and the third highest for any Western release in the country, behind Spider-Man 3 (2007) and Casino Royale (2006).[46] In its second week, the film's gross rose to Rs. 3,04,70,752 at the Indian box office.[47]

A few analysts have offered their opinions for the film's performance at the Indian box office. Trade analyst Komal Nahta commented that, "there was a problem with the title itself. Slumdog is not a familiar word for majority Indians." In addition, trade analyst, Amod Mehr has stated that with the exception of Anil Kapoor, the film lacks recognizable stars and that "the film ... is not ideally suited for Indian sentiment." A cinema owner commented that "to hear slum boys speaking perfect English doesn't seem right but when they are speaking in Hindi, the film seems much more believable." The dubbed Hindi version, Slumdog Crorepati has done better at the box office and more copies of that version were released.[48]

Critical reception

Awards and honours

Main article: List of Slumdog Millionaire awards and honours

Slumdog Millionaire is highly acclaimed, named in the top ten lists of various newspapers.[49] On 22 February 2009, the film won eight out of ten Academy Awards it was nominated for, including Best Picture and Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Mixing, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, and Best Original Song (two songs were nominated from the film; "Jai Ho" won the award), losing only Best Sound Editing to The Dark Knight. It is only the eighth film ever to win eight Academy Awards.[50]

The film also won all four of the Golden Globe Awards it was nominated for, including Best Drama Film; five of the six Critics' Choice Awards for which it was nominated; and seven of the eleven BAFTA Awards for which it was nominated, including Best Film.

Reactions from the Western world

Slumdog Millionaire has been critically acclaimed in the Western world. As of 21 February 2009, Rotten Tomatoes has given the film a 94% rating with a 186 fresh and twelve rotten reviews. The average score is 8.2/10.[51] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film has received an average score of 86, based on 36 reviews.[52] Movie City News shows that the film appeared in 123 different top ten lists, out of 286 different critics lists surveyed, the 3rd most mentions on a top ten list of any film released in 2008.[53]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times gave the film four out of four stars, stating that it is, "a breathless, exciting story, heartbreaking and exhilarating."[54] Wall Street Journal critic Joe Morgenstern refers to Slumdog Millionaire as, "the film world's first globalized masterpiece."[55] Ty Burr of the Boston Globe describes the film as a "sprawling, madly romantic fairy-tale epic is the kind of deep-dish audience-rouser we've long given up hoping for from Hollywood."[56] Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post argues that, "this modern-day "rags-to-rajah" fable won the audience award at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this year, and it's easy to see why. With its timely setting of a swiftly globalizing India and, more specifically, the country's own version of the "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" TV show, combined with timeless melodrama and a hardworking orphan who withstands all manner of setbacks, "Slumdog Millionaire" plays like Charles Dickens for the 21st century."[57] Todd McCarthy of Variety, praises the script as "intricate and cleverly structured", the cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle's, and Chris Dickens' editing as "breathless" He concludes that, "as drama and as a look at a country increasingly entering the world spotlight, Slumdog Millionaire is a vital piece of work by an outsider who’s clearly connected with the place."[58] Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times describes the film as "a Hollywood-style romantic melodrama that delivers major studio satisfactions in an ultra-modern way", and the "hard-to-resist 'Slumdog Millionaire,' with director Danny Boyle adding independent film touches to a story of star-crossed romance that the original Warner brothers would have embraced, shamelessly pulling out stops that you wouldn't think anyone would have the nerve to attempt anymore."[59] Manohla Dargis of The New York Times, calls the film "a modern fairy tale," a "sensory blowout," and "one of the most upbeat stories about living in hell imaginable." She concludes that "In the end, what gives me reluctant pause about this bright, cheery, hard-to-resist movie is that its joyfulness feels more like a filmmaker’s calculation than an honest cry from the heart about the human spirit."[60] Peter Brunette of the Hollywood Reporter, while giving it a positive review, states the film is "a high-octane hybrid of Danny Boyle's patented cinematic overkill and Bollywood's ultra-energetic genre conventions that is a little less good than the hype would have it."[61] Several other reviewers have described Slumdog Millionaire as a Bollywood-style "Masala" movie,[62] due to the way the film combines "familiar raw ingredients into a feverish masala"[63] and culminates in "the romantic leads finding each other."[64] Analogizing the rags-to-riches plotline with the low-budget origins of Slumdog Millionaire, Mike Scott compared Boyle's success to simultaneous Oscar-winning Heath Ledger's best-supporting-actor performance in The Dark Knight, which likewise was produced without underwriting from a major film studio; Scott, commenting on both films for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, hoped the films would end up "giving a boost to independent filmmaking"—an aspiration expressed by Boyle himself about the two films in remarks immediately after the Oscars ceremony.[65]

Other critics offered mixed reviews. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave the film three out of five stars, stating that "despite the extravagant drama and some demonstrations of the savagery meted out to India's street children, this is a cheerfully undemanding and unreflective film with a vision of India that, if not touristy exactly, is certainly an outsider's view; it depends for its full enjoyment on not being taken too seriously." He also points out that the film is co-produced by Celador Films who own the rights to the original Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and claims that “it functions as a feature-length product placement for the programme.”[66][67] Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle states that, "Slumdog Millionaire has a problem in its storytelling. The movie unfolds in a start-and-stop way that kills suspense, leans heavily on flashbacks and robs the movie of most of its velocity. The filmmakers' motives are sincere. The story is interesting enough. Yet the whole construction is tied to a gimmicky narrative strategy that keeps Slumdog Millionaire from really hitting its stride until the last 30 minutes. By then, it's just a little too late."[68] Eric Hynes of IndieWIRE panned the film and wrote it is "bombastic" and "a noisy, sub-Dickens update on the romantic tramp's tale" and faulted the film's glossy and sentimental portrayal of societal poverty, and described it as "a goofy picaresque to rival Forrest Gump" in its morality and romanticism.[69] Armond White of the New York Press called the film "decadently over-hyped" and "Gitmo for guilty liberals", also stating that "over-stimulation crushes feeling [and] only evokes sentimentality" and that "Boyle trades exploitation for schmaltz".[70] Matthew Schneeberger speculates as to why the film has angered some Indians stating: "Say an Indian director travelled to New Orleans for a few months to film a movie about Jamal Martin, an impoverished African American who lost his home in Hurricane Katrina, who once had a promising basketball career, but who -- following a drive-by shooting -- now walks with a permanent limp, whose father is in jail for selling drugs, whose mother is addicted to crack cocaine, whose younger sister was killed by gang-violence, whose brother was arrested by corrupt cops, whose first born child has sickle cell anaemia, and so on. The movie would be widely panned and laughed out of theatres."[71]

Reactions from India and Indian diaspora

The film has been a subject of discussion among a variety of people in India and the Indian diaspora. Indian film critics have "largely embraced the movie."[46] Nikhat Kazmi of the Times of India calls it "a piece of riveting cinema, meant to be savoured as a Cinderella-like fairy tale, with the edge of a thriller and the vision of an artist." He also argues against criticism of the film stating that, "it was never meant to be a documentary on the down and out in Dharavi. And it isn't."[72] Renuka Vyavahare of Indiatimes suggests that, "the film is indeed very Indian" and that it is "one of the best English films set in India and revolving around the country’s most popular metropolis Mumbai."[73] Kaveree Bamzai of India Today calls the film "feisty" and argues that it is "Indian at its core and Western in its technical flourish."[74] Anand Giridharadas argues in The New York Times that the film has a "freshness" which "portrays a changing India, with great realism, as something India long resisted being: a land of self-makers, where a scruffy son of the slums can, solely of his own effort, hoist himself up, flout his origins, break with fate." Giridharadas also calls the film "a tribute to the irrepressible self."[75] Poorna Shetty states in the The Guardian that "Boyle's depiction of Mumbai is spot on." She further states that the film displays the "human aspect of the slums and the irrepressible energy and life force of the place" and "a breathing snapshot of the city that is always stripped of its warmth when depicted in the news."[76]

On the other hand, Mukul Kesavan of The Telegraph (Kolkata) states that the film is "a hybrid so odd" (due to the decision to have the first third in Hindi and the remainder in English) "that it becomes hard for the Indian viewer to do the thing that he so effortlessly does with Ghajini or Om Shanti Om — namely, suspend disbelief." Kesavan further states that, "the transition from child actors who in real life are slum children to young actors who are, just as clearly, middle-class anglophones is so abrupt and inexplicable that it subverts the ‘realism’ of the brilliantly shot squalor in which their lives play out."[77] Film critic Gautaman Bhaskaran questioned the "euphoria in India" in a review for The Seoul Times after the film's release there, arguing that with a few exceptions, "there is nothing Indian about this film." Bhaskaran questions inconsistencies in the plot and concludes that it is a film of "very little substance" as well as "superficial and insensitive."[78] Another film critic (author of The Essential Guide to Bollywood), Subhash K. Jha, also states in Bollywood Hungama that he found the film "over-hyped and disappointing" and also suggests that the territory has already been covered by Indian filmmakers (Mira Nair in Salaam Bombay and Satyajit Ray in the Apu Trilogy).[79] Soutik Biswas of the BBC further argues that Slumdog Millionaire is an imitation of Indian films that have been "routinely ignored" and suggests that, "if you are looking for gritty realism set in the badlands of Mumbai, order a DVD of a film called Satya by Ramgopal Verma. The 1998 feature on an immigrant who is sucked into Mumbai's colourful underworld makes Slumdog look like a slick, uplifting MTV docu-drama."[80]

In addition, filmmakers have commented on the film. Bollywood director and superstar Aamir Khan (whose film Taare Zameen Par was India's submission to the Academy Awards but was not chosen as a finalist for Best Foreign Film) [81][82] stated in an interview with NDTV that he doesn't "see ‘Slumdog...’ as an Indian film."[81][82] In a second interview with NDTV after the Oscar wins, Khan stated that, "I have seen Slumdog and the film didn't work for me" and that "for someone who lives here, the film goes over the top. Nevertheless, I am very happy that the people are liking the movie." He also praised the win by Resul Pookutty in the interview [83] as well as A. R. Rahman and Gulzar in his personal blog.[84] Director and filmmaker Priyadarshan criticized Slumdog Millionaire as a film which is a "mediocre version of those commercial films about estranged brothers and childhood sweethearts that Salim-Javed used to write so brilliantly in the 1970s." He also stated that he viewed the film at the Toronto Film Festival and that, "The Westerners loved it. All the Indian[s] hated it. The West loves to see us as a wasteland, filled with horror stories of exploitation and degradation. But is that all there's to our beautiful city of Mumbai?"[85]Similarly, filmmaker Aadesh Shrivastava expressed outrage the stereotyping portrayals of Indians in the film. He has observed ethnic slurs being hurled at Indians in the United States following the distribution of the film in the country, and criticized the positive reaction by some Indians towards to what he sees as a film that directly attacks and insults India[86]

Authors and scholars have responded more critically to the film. Salman Rushdie stated in an interview with the New York Times that he is "not a very big fan" of Slumdog Millionaire. [...] I think it’s visually brilliant. But I have problems with the story line. I find the storyline unconvincing. It just couldn’t happen. I’m not adverse to magic realism but there has to be a level of plausibility, and I felt there were three or four moments in the film where the storyline breached that rule."[87] Rushdie also criticized the film during a talk given at Emory University on the night of the Oscars, stating that it "piles impossibility on impossibility." Criticizing the way in which the film was adapted as well as the novel it was based upon, Rushdie also questioned the plausibility of a number of plot points. [88]Radha Chadha, co-author of The Cult of the Luxury Brand: Inside Asia's Love Affair with Luxury (with Paul Husband), offers an analysis of the film in Livemint. She argues that while Slumdog Millionaire is entertaining, it is still a "masala film," the kind of Bollywood product which Indians grow up watching. As to its popularity in the West, she further suggests that what is "ordinary" (in terms of film genre) for an Indian audience, "is extraordinary for the world" and that "the mesmerizing soft power of Bollywood which has kept a billion Indians enthralled for decades is touching the rest of the world."[89] Priya Joshi, Associate Professor of English at Temple University, argues that the film's indebtedness to Bollywood film runs much deeper than the happy ending, "In the same way that Cinema Paradiso paid homage to the transformative power of Hollywood movies of the 1940s, Slumdog testifies to the power of Bollywood's blockbusters from the 1970s, and it's no accident that the first question on the quiz show is about the 1973 hit Zanjeer."[90] Assistant Professor of sociology (Wellesley College) Smitha Radhakrishnan states in UCLA's Asia Pacific Arts journal that the film offers "an action-packed, devastating, intriguing, and oddly beautiful world." Radhakrishnan also argues that while its "outsider's" view offers an "unexpected advantage," there were notable "slip-ups" of which the "most glaring was the language. Despite the plausible explanation that Jamal and Salim picked up English, posing as tour guides at the Taj Mahal, it is highly implausible that they would come out of that experience speaking perfect British English, as Dev Patel does in portraying the grown-up Jamal. It's highly implausible that he would speak to Latika and Salim in English as an adult too."[91] Professor Vrinda Nabar, the former Chair of English at the University of Mumbai, argues that the film ignores the "complexity" of Mumbai as "a city in which sensitivity coexists with despair, commitment with indifference, activism with inaction, and humanism with the inhumane."[92] Shyamal Sengupta, a professor of film studies at the Whistling Woods International Institute for Films, Media, Animationa and Media Arts in Mumbai, criticized the film for its stereotypical portrayals of Indians by calling it a "white man's imagined India. It's not quite snake charmers, but it's close. It's a poverty tour."[93]


Main article: Slumdog Millionaire (soundtrack)

The Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack was composed by A. R. Rahman who planned the score over two months and completed it in two weeks.[94] Rahman won the 2009 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score and won two out of the three nominations for the Academy Awards, including one for Best Original Score and one for Best Original Song, the song "O... Saya" got a nomination shared with M.I.A. and the other song "Jai Ho" won the award and was shared with lyricist Gulzar. The soundtrack was released on M.I.A.'s record label N.E.E.T. Radio Sargam termed the soundtrack "magnum opus and the entire world is known to this fact."[95]


Loveleen Tandan

After the nominations for the 66th Golden Globe Awards were announced, a Chicago film critic launched an online campaign to demand that Loveleen Tandan, who Danny Boyle appointed as co-director for the film, be nominated for Best Director alongside Boyle at the Golden Globes and the 81st Academy Awards. The campaign organizer Jan Lisa Huttner stated: "If she's co-director during the filmmaking and marketing process, why isn't she co-nominee when the awards are passed out?" She noted "how rare it is for female directors to be in the awards race." After finding out about this campaign, Tandan sought to end it, stating, "I can't tell you how embarrassed I am by this [...] The suggestion is highly inappropriate, and I am writing to you to stress that I would not wish it to be considered."[96]

Slumdog Millionaire's producer Christian Colson says Tandan's credit is being misconstrued to mean she is on equal creative footing with Boyle.[96] Colson stated that Tandan's title was "strange but deserved" and was developed over "a Coca Cola and a cup of tea" in order to identify her as "one of our key cultural bridges."[96]

Amitabh Bachchan

One of the first celebrities thought to have discussed the film was "Bollywood legend"[97] Amitabh Bachchan, from whom young Jamal eagerly seeks an autograph in the beginning of the film and who was the original presenter for Kaun Banega Crorepati, the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? He has an entry on his blog dated 13 January 2009[98] stating that on another part of his blog there were "comments for the film ‘SlumDog Millionaire’" which he noted indicated "anger by some on its contents." He further states that, "if SM projects India as Third World dirty under belly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots, let it be known that a murky under belly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations." Bachchan also states: "It's just that the SM idea authored by an Indian and conceived and cinematically put together by a Westerner, gets creative Globe recognition. The other would perhaps not."[98] This entry was widely reported on by the press as a criticism of the film.[99][100][97]

In a later entry,[101] Bachchan responded to these media reports by stating: "Fact is - some one mentioned the film on my blog. Some expressed opinion for it, some against. And yes, they contained some strong assumptions. I merely put both of them up and invited debate [...] Media, in India has taken the pros and cons of OTHERS, as MINE, built their headlines and put it safely out, thereby, causing the consternation. All the expressions that have been attributed to me are in fact the expressions of others."[102][101] In another entry,[103] Bachchan states that Anil Kapoor invited him by phone to the premiere of the film. During the same phone call, Bachchan also spoke with Danny Boyle and described him as "gracious and complimentary to me and my work." Bachchan states that he offered his "apologies" over headlines "created by media" and that Boyle "understands and acknowledges my calling him."[104] Following the film's release in India on 23 January 2009, Bachchan called the movie "wonderful" and praised the fact that A.R. Rahman received three Oscar nominations.[105]

Protests and lawsuits

Following its release in India, the film faced criticism from various members of the public alleging that the film fuels western stereotypes about poverty in India and that it peddles "poverty porn" and "slum voyeurism".[46] Tapeshwar Vishwakarma, a representative of a slum-dwellers' welfare group, has filed a defamation lawsuit against the film's music composer A.R. Rahman and actor Anil Kapoor, alleging that slum-dwellers were depicted in a bad light which would be a violation of their human rights.[106][107] Vishwakarma's lawsuit alleged that the name of the movie is derogatory and he was particularly displeased that Indians associated with the film did not object to the use of word "slumdog."[106] Nicholas Almeida, a social activist working in Mumbai, organized a protest against the film on the grounds that it intentionally exploited the poor for the purposes of profit, and that the title 'Slumdog millionaire" was offensive, demeaning and insulted their dignity. The protesters were slum dwellers in Mumbai, holding posters like "I am not a dog"[108] who objected to being dehumanized as "dogs" in the film title.[109]

Protests against Slumdog Millionaire have extended beyond Mumbai to other parts of the country. Slum dwellers in Patna, the capital of the Indian state of Bihar, have intensified protests against the movie. Activists have reported that slum dwellers will continue to protest until the film's director deletes the word 'dog' from the title.[110] Protests in Patna intensified on 26 January 2009, when "protesters tore down posters and ransacked a movie theatre" screening the film. The following day, the police in Bihar tightened security "outside theatres in the state to thwart any further attacks."[111]

Hindu Janjagruti Samiti has protested against the film for its allegedly inappropriate portrayal of the Hindu God Rama.[112][113] The activist group believes that the portrayal of Rama is derogatory and "hurts the sentiments of Hindus". Writing for the conservative Daily Pioneer, Kanchan Gupta reiterated the objections of the activist group that the film provides a one-sided portrayal of the complexities of religious conflict in India, and that the film depicts Hindus as "rapacious monsters".[114]

Child actors

According to the UK newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, Azharuddin Ismail (who played Salim as a child) was paid £1,700 and Rubina Ali (who played Latika as a child) £500 for a month’s work on the film. The child actors continue to live in makeshift shacks in the slums of Bandra, a suburb of Mumbai, according to the Telegraph[115] and ABC News.[116] The Telegraph also reports that Ismail's home has been demolished by the local authorities and he now sleeps under a sheet of plastic tarpaulin with his father Mohammed Ismail, who suffers from tuberculosis. A Fox Searchlight spokesman has responded that for their one-month work on the film, the child actors were paid three times the amount of an average annual salary for an adult living in their neighborhood.[115]

On 26 January 2009, Danny Boyle (director) and Christian Colson (producer) released a written statement saying that they had “paid painstaking and considered attention to how Azhar and Rubina’s involvement in the film could be of lasting benefit to them over and above the payment they received for their work”. Boyle and Colson have stated that they have "set up trust funds for Rubina and Azharuddin and paid for their education," although the exact amount of the trust funds is not known. This has also been met with criticism as there is question as to how children growing up in the slums have any expectation of being able to attend higher education, making the trust fund potentially useless. [115] Boyle has explained that, "We don't want to reveal exact figures about what's in the trust fund, what's in the bank account for them for when they leave school because it will make them vulnerable and a target really but it is substantial, and they will hopefully gain benefit from the film long after the film has disappeared and long after the media who are chasing them at the moment sadly have lost interest in the film and that's been our approach throughout and I think it's the right approach."[117]

Both Azharuddin and Rubina attended the 81st Academy Awards on 22 February 2009. Azharuddin was accompanied by his mother Shameem Ismail, while Rubina was accompanied by her uncle.[118]

Longinus Fernandes

Bollywood dance choreographer Longinus Fernandes (aka Longi), who choreographed the closing dance scene in Slumdog Millionaire[119], was not duly mentioned in the ending movie credits. In his acceptance speech at the 81st Academy Awards, the film's director Danny Boyle admitted he discovered the mistake only two weeks earlier and said: "There's one guy I should mention, we've mentioned a lot of people, I forgot the guy who choreographed the dance at the end of the film, he's called Longinus [Fernandes] and I forgot him off the credits, and I only found out about it two weeks ago. I'm an idiot... and I apologize from the bottom of my heart Longinus".[120]


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