Finally, I managed to catch up with Slumdog Millionaire in its Television Premiere at PIX – after half the world who ever wanted to watch it had already done so, and the other half had neither heard of nor cared about it, so it does not matter. By now I had already collected scene-by-scene descriptions of the movie from several sources as text and audio (not that I wanted to, but at one point the whole of India was talking of nothing else, in all possible angles), so all that was left was adding video to it. The film did not enchant, neither did it disappoint; however, long after it was over, I was left with a feeling that something was missing.
It was several hours later that I could put my finger on what was lacking – there was no happiness anywhere in the film except when Jamal wins Latika (and the million rupee contest) at the end. The entire two and a half hours speaks of ill-treatment, misery and torture (even Anil Kapoor as the devious host of Who wants to be a Millionaire tries to wreck Jamal’s chances of getting a happy life). No wonder several people have voiced their disapproval in the way India is portrayed in it – it was as if India is one big piece of Misery, which it isn’t. It is not that slums as shown don’t exist. It’s not that Hindu-Muslim riots don’t happen. It’s not that children are not used so terrifyingly for begging. It’s the way that Jamal says when he was beaten by a cop, “This is the real India!”, that gives a sinking feeling to every Indian.
The only justification to this entirely negative storyline could be perhaps found in the last line of the movie, in answer to the question, How did a slumdog know the answers to all the questions in the contest:
D. It is written
Despite all odds against him, he has finally won the lady and the money, because it was his Destiny.
One can watch this film for entertainment’s sake. Not for seeing what India is like!