“Slumdog Millionaire” became one of the best movies of 2008, featuring the top ten lists of different magazines and newspapers. On the 22nd of February, 2009, the movie was granted eight out of ten Academy Awards, including the Best Director and the Best Picture. “Slumdog Millionaire” is the eighth film in the movie history which has ever won eight Academy Awards and the eleventh winner of the Best Picture Oscar without any acting nominations. The movie has also won seven out of eleven BAFTA Awards, including the Best Film, as well as all four Golden Globe Awards, and five out of six Critics' Choice Awards. A lot of awards prove at once that the movie is worth seeing and that it carries some important concept in it which gives the audience what to think about (Slumdog Millionaire Review: The Best Movie I’ve Seen This Year, 2008).
“Slumdog Millionaire” has been an eager subject of debate among a lot of people in India as well as across the whole world. It is very interesting for me to get to know what the Indians thought about the cultural moments and their life in general as it was outlined in the movie. Indian film critics have responded quite positively to the broadcast. However, some of them still objected strictly to such issues as Jamal's use of British English which as if reminded everyone that India was one of the British colonies, or the fact that practically the same movies made by Indian filmmakers have received none of the recognition which was granted to the “Slumdog Millionaire”.
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“Slumdog Millionaire” has also been subject to very serious academic criticism. The substantial doubts concerning both the realism of the depiction of Indian urban poverty as well as whether the movie will add up to those discussions for the sake of the poor in the country have been expressed. Many of the academic critics revealed a thought that it is highly probable that the issues filmed by the director will only make the whole world feel some kind of repulsion towards the Indian society with its highly contrastive way of life. Therefore, the movie is inclined to support those policies which have tended to deprive the slum dwellers even more in terms of power, material goods, and dignity (Dargis, 2008).
Furthermore, it was suggested that the movie’s main actions take place in such places and mention those characters which might be considered quite symbolic by the Western culture and role-models of development. Nonetheless, the variety of other points is abundant among the movie critics, and some of them presuppose that the main goal of the movie was to change urban prospects and aspirations for mobility which are globally observed in the Indian cities, particularly Mumbai where the film was shot.
It is also important to note that “Slumdog Millionaire” can reflect a much larger context of both global and national cultural flows, which tackle issues of status, labor, poverty and ways of achieving the goals as well as the very goals in urban India. Featuring India, the director is aptly stressing on the problems which can be referred to many other nations who suffer from similar challenges. Choosing India as the leading country to highlight these challenges, shows director’s understanding of the historical issues the country faced and how it influenced its development in the modern days (Lieberman, 2009).
Some other academic critics suggest that the main goal of the movie was to show the rest of the world which issues can arise when the dignity of labor is lost and that the interpretation of the movie should be a more detailed way to reflect the role of market power and the new service economy of India which started with the attempts to transform the status and caste established opportunity structure across the entire urban India (Slumdog Millionaire Review: The Best Movie I’ve Seen This Year, 2008).
The movie’s plot centers on Jamal Malik, a young man, who is about to win the first 20 million rupees which have never been obtained before in the Hindi version of the popular show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”. However, some people in the authority do not trust the boy’s intellectual abilities and consider him to be cheating. They arrest the boy stating that the poor and not even educated child from some God-forgotten slums cannot possibly get any further in the show when prestigious lawyers and doctors have failed many times to do so.
Quite soon the audience has the opportunity to learn how Jamal knows all the answers. The viewer experiences together with the boy his past life through memories told to the police. Jamal and Salim, his brother, are struggling hard to survive in a very merciless India. For example, when at the show Jamal faces the question of who is depicted on the one hundred dollar bill of the United States which the boy could not possibly know because of his life circumstances, we are transported to a very moving moment when Jamal meets with a blind boy who is begging for some food or money in the street. Jamal realizes that in front of him is the boy from the “orphanage” where he and his brother were before and from where they managed to escape, he gives the begging boy a bill with “an old guy who is bald on top with long hair on the sides, like a girl.” The blind beggar says that it is President of the United States, Benjamin Franklin, carving in Jamal’s brain the memory of this meeting forever (Dargis, 2008).
In the same way, Jamal answers other questions bringing out from the corners of his memory the bitter experiences of his life: He knows the position of Cambridge Circle and what was the name of the cricketer who scored the most. The boy not only wins a fortune which changes his life completely, but he also finds the love of his life, the girl with who they had to experience some of the most difficult moments in the lives of both of them (Slumdog Millionaire Review: The Best Movie I’ve Seen This Year, 2008).
“Slumdog Millionaire” is filmed in such a way that it never loses the interest of the audience unfolding into a cohesive pattern which shows the importance of the life experience for each person. Jamal sees how cruel the world is when the only thoughts are about money. That money make the hearts even of the family harsh as happened with his and his brother Salim. However, the true feelings cannot be destroyed by greediness and true love will always overcome all the challenges even if they seem to demolish everything on their way.
Visually, the movie is captivating: From the dirtiness of the shabby villages to the rapidly increasing industrial machine and enormous skyscrapers appearing in the same areas just about ten years later. In about the same way the mini-stories of the characters are unfolded. The director makes a great effort and each scene seems to be from the real life: He is aptly capturing a fleeting moment of happiness or, more frequently, the pain of immense poverty and homelessness. An observation of these scenes makes the audience treasure more what they already possess as there are thousands of people who do not have even the smallest part of what they have. The remorse the movie triggers in the heart of the viewer broadens greatly the world perception as well as educates to be more generous, helpful, understanding, caring, and loving (Slumdog Millionaire Review: The Best Movie I’ve Seen This Year, 2008).
The only weakness of the movie, if I can call it like this, lies in the love story which reminds us the fairy-tale-like way of falling in love. The story disappears and then emerges again through the whole movie – on the one hand, the audience understands that Latika, a young girl, and Jamal will be together because their love will conquer the world, but on the other hand, they are constantly parted just to see each other in one more unusual surrounding again. Jamal’s strong and enduring love in spite of their inability to be together or even to see each other is stunning, however, quite unreal, because the reality usually proves different: Young people are more than inclined to find the reason for their affection in someone else, especially, if there is no possibility to be with their beloved together for a long time.
Kind-hearted and pitiful people must wait for happy ending for the both young sufferers during the whole movie, however, the logic says that due to all the misfortunes that seem to follow them, they would not be together, at least the common sense tells it. On the other hand, Jamal has already proved that if there is a will, there will be a way, and strong personality will open all doors of possible and impossible.
The strongest, negative critique followed the movie release in India, when members of various layers of the society started alleging that the “Slumdog Millionaire” only represents and increases all those Western stereotypes about the issues triggered by the poverty in India. A representative of the group that maintains the slum-dwellers' welfare, Tapeshwar Vishwakarma, filed a lawsuit against Anil Kapoor, the actor, as well as A.R. Rahman, the music composer, stating that extremely grim presentation of slum dwellers dishonored their human rights. He continued to argue that even the title of the film is quite derogatory, and what was especially offensive to him, that the Indian community did not protest to being called “slumdogs" (Slumdog Millionaire Review: The Best Movie I’ve Seen This Year, 2008).
Despite the positive reviews of the Indian movie critiques, the public showed a much greater objection to the depiction of their life in India in that way. A social activist from Mumbai, Nicholas Almeida, organised a real protest against the movie saying that the director intentionally exploited the unlucky poor people for the purposes of obtaining profit, adding that the title “Slumdog Millionaire” is extremely offensive, humiliating, and demolishing of the dignity of the nation. Activists alleged that slum dwellers would protest until the movie’s director removed the word "dog" from the movie title (Lieberman, 2009).
Such strong difference in the critique of the movie only proves that the problem is actual for many people, and all the attention that the movie obtained reflects the understanding of the strongly negative effects of poverty on the personal development of the society as well as the economic and social well-being of its members. However, poverty has always existed and will probably always remain the main problem of a large range of countries which are inflicted by the ineffective governing top, wrong management, change in the values when, on the one hand, the technological development and globalization call for a progress in each sphere of life, and, on the other hand, when the country’s traditions stereotypes, and people’s perception of the world are hindering them to react properly to such innovative changes making the gap between the rich and the poor, often uneducated even larger. “Slumdog Millionaire” is a beautiful story which allows the audience to think once again about what we have and what we lose in the wrongful pursuit for something which does not really have value in life. Until we find our goal in life, we will not be able to lead a happy life.
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