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Published: 8 January 2009
Ayush Khedekar as Jamal in Danny Boyle's Slumdog  Millionaire
Ayush Khedekar as Jamal in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire
Is money the answer? Time to phone a friend

Directed by Danny Boyle
Certificate 15

DESPITE an ending that undermines an hour and a bit of great story-telling, despite a sense that the final message of this film is unpalatable, despite a glaring weakness in the plot which becomes apparent as the tale unfolds, director Danny Boyle’s latest effort is a colourful, enjoyable romp through the slums of Mumbai.

It goes like this: Jamal Malik (Ayush Khedekar) is an 18-year-old orphan who finds himself just one question away from winning the top pot in the Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
But how has a youth with an education solely based on survival, living on the rubbish tips and violent streets of the city, managed to wriggle his way through the questions as they get progressively harder? Suspected of cheating, he is snatched the night before he is due to answer the final question by the police and subjected to a violent interrogation.
It is through this questioning that the flashback story of his life is told, and we find out how he has managed to answer the questions to get to the 20 million rupee moment.
Asked which American figure is on the back of the $100 note, he furrows his brow and answers correctly. “When have you, a chai wallah, ever seen a $100 bill?” slurs the vile presenter.
Jamal is but one of three characters: orphaned when his mother was murdered during a religious riot, his childhood was spent with brother Malik, scrounging the next meal. The pair befriend beautiful orphan Latika, and Jamal falls in love.
The performances by the actors who play the three leads in various stages of their lives are super (three different actors take each character through the different stages of their childhood and adolescence), as is the Indian version of Chris Tarrant, played Anil Kapoor. He is a flump of a man – sneering, greedy, condescending with a bouffant quiff that waggles provocatively towards poor Jamal as he sweats his way through the questions.
Yet these performances only serve up some glaring weaknesses in the plot.
While Boyle is a director who brings each frame alive with colour, motion, angles, backdrops, he seems to adhere to a code that is morally bankrupt.
It is apparent when you consider his previous films: from Shallow Grave to Trainspotting, A Life Less Ordinary to Millions, Boyle is infatuated with the idea that if you get rich quickly, luckily, undeservedly, life is sooo much better.
Jamal’s attempts to win Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and get his girl back, overshadows the love story: the idea that love conquers all is usurped to a degree by the thought that money is really what we all want.

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