Millionaire is a 2008 British film directed by
Danny Boyle, written by Simon Beaufoy, and co-directed
in India by Loveleen Tandan. 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 its world premiere at Telluride Film Festival
and subsequent screenings at the Toronto International
Film Festival and the London Film Festival, Slumdog
Millionaire initially had a limited North American
release on 12 November 2008 by Fox Searchlight
Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures, to critical
acclaim and awards success. It later had a nationwide
grand release in the United Kingdom on 9 January
2009 and in the United States on 23 January 2009.
It premiered in Mumbai on 22 January 2009. The
DVD and Blu-ray versions are set to be released
on 31 March 2009.
Slumdog Millionaire was nominated for ten Academy
Awards in 2009 and won eight, the most for any
film of 2008, including Best Picture and Best
Director. It also won five Critics' Choice Awards,
four Golden Globes, and seven BAFTA Awards, including
Best Film. Despite the film's success, it is the
subject of controversy concerning its portrayals
of Indians and Hinduism as well as the welfare
of its child actors.
in 2006, the film opens with a notorious scene
in Mumbai, torturing Jamal Malik (Dev Patel),
a former street child from the Dharavi slums.
In 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) in which he was on
the show and won 20,000,000 rupees (about US$500,000).
Jamal has made it to the final question, scheduled
for the next day, but thanks to a tip-off from
the host, 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
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 Bachchan's
autograph, the death of his mother during the
Hindu anti-Muslim violence, rekindling the memory
of the 1993 anti-Muslim attacks in Mumbai by Hindu
nationalists in the slums, and how he and his
brother Salim befriend Latika (Freida Pinto) (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 protects his brother, and
the three children try to escape; but only Salim
and Jamal are able to do so. Salim purposely lets
go of Latika's hand as she tries to board a train
they are hopping. 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 picking pockets.
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. Jamal 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 chef 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 5 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, leaving Jamal
with the onlooking crowd.
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 two crore,
or 20 million rupees (£281,301, $388,275
U.S.), but the host calls the police and Jamal
is taken into police custody, where he is tortured
as the police attempt to learn how he, 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 Jamal's explanation
"bizarrely plausible" and, knowing he's
not in it for the money, allows him 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. He urges her to run away and to "forgive
him for what he has done". 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",
she tells Jamal in unsubtitled Hindi, "I'm
yours" right before the phone connection
is cut. 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, or
implying that it is destiny. In a scene reminiscent
of many Bollywood musicals, they then dance, along
with dozens of bystanders and even the juvenile
versions of themselves, in the train station during
the end credits.
Differences from the book Q & A
Q & A (novel)
The Bombay Hindu-Muslim riots played no role in
the book, as the ethnic or religious heritage
of the main character was uncertain. In the book,
the character of Jamal is instead named 'Ram Mohammad
Thomas'. He was given a Hindu name, Muslim name
and Christian name by the village elders in order
to maintain the balance between all the religious
communities after his mother abandoned him after
birth. Unlike the movie, Ram does not have a biological
brother, but Salim is instead his best friend
in the novel. He grows up in an orphanage and
his only 'brothers' are his fellow orphans. He
never knew his mother. Ram is adopted by a Christian
priest as a youth, which is where he learns English,
and then is nearly molested by a visiting priest.
The priest scenes were not included in the script
for the movie, and the movie does not explain
how Jamal learned fluent English. Latika is not
his childhood friend in the book but rather a
prostitute named Nita that Ram falls in love with
in a brothel when he's 18.
Simon Beaufoy wrote Slumdog Millionaire based
on the Boeke Prize winning and Commonwealth Writers'
Prize nominated novel Q & A by Vikas Swarup.
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 Productions invited director
Danny Boyle to read the script of Slumdog Millionaire.
Boyle initially hesitated, since he was not interested
in making a film about Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?,
which was produced by Celador. However, 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.] 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 U.S. distributor to share costs. Fox Searchlight
Pictures made an initial offer that was reportedly
in the $2 million range, but Warner Independent
Pictures made a $5 million offer to win rights
to the picture.
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."
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. Filming began
on 5 November 2007.
In addition to Swarup's original novel Q &
A, the film was also inspired by Indian cinema.
Tandan has referred to Slumdog Millionaire as
an homage to Hindi commercial cinema, noting that
"Simon Beaufoy studied Salim-Javed's kind
of cinema minutely." Boyle has cited the
influence of several Bollywood films set in Mumbai.
Satya (screenplay 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 also 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 (adapted from S. Hussein Zaidi's
book of the same name about the 1993 Bombay bombings).
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.
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."
Boyle has cited other Indian films as influences
in subsequent interviews. 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."
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".
Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan, [the host of last
aired episode,till release of this movie] 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).
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? (Credit:
Wants To Me A Millionaire?