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Slumdog Millionaire


Stars: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Anil Kapoor, Irrfan Khan, Madhur Mittal, Mahesh Manjrekar, Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, Rubiana Ali, Tanay Chheda, Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala, Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar

Director: Danny Boyle

Boyle's biggest and best film to date, winner of the 2009 Best Film Oscar, is impressive from every angle - in its originality of plot, its control of crowd scenes, its skilful use of Mumbai locations, the sweep of its story, and the narrative drive that leads to a cheekily corny ending that even (just) gets away with a Bollywood musical finale.

Not that there isn't a multiplicity of tragedies; when we first meet Jamal (Patel), he's being beaten and tortured by police (led by the invaluable Khan), who suspect him of cheating on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, where he has already won a staggering 10 million rupees, and stands to go double or nothing on a final question.

How could a 'slumdog' who has only progressed, at 18, to teaboy at a 'cold call' phone company, possibly answer all these questions? In between having his toes tickled with electricity, Jamal explains how hard lessons in life have taught him many of the answers.

Orphaned in a Hindi-Muslim race riot, he and his older brother become beggars, train hustlers, illegal Taj Mahal guides and all-round thieves of property whose owners aren't looking. On the way, escaping from a vicious Indian 'Fagin' who puts pupils' eyes out so that they can become blind beggars, they leave behind their firm friend Latika, whom Jamal is determined to find again one day.

One or two small quibbles: the final question is really too easy, and Pinto is a bit too glamorous and sophisticated as the older Latika. But Patel has the right Everyman qualities as the kid who keeps getting the answers correct to the well-masked fury of the quizmaster (excellent Kapoor) who considers himself the star of the show. And the boys and girls who play Jamal and Latika at earlier stages are all charmers. All in all, it's a notable triumph.

David Quinlan

UK/India 2008. UK Distributor: Pathe. Technicolor/Fujicolor.
120 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 03 Jan 2009