Life gives you the answers you need.
Such is the premise presented in Danny Boyle’s multi-awarded Slumdog Millionaire. By my standards, it was worthy of all the awards it earned. This is how movies should be made. Not with well-known celebrities but with actors gifted to portray their roles convincingly, with a compelling storyline, an inspired script and excellent directing, resulting to a film that credibly mirrors life, and thus resonating with the viewer. Add an appropriate musical score that, instead of distracting, connects with the emotions and it enriches the depth.
Slumdog Millionaire’s story is beautifully woven around three central characters whose nature and motivations are consummately fleshed out. The supporting characters each had their essential contributions to the essence of the film no matter how fleeting or lengthy their appearance was.
Veering from the usual, unchallenging chronological sequence of events, the non-linear presentation of events worked superbly in rendering the situations along the journey of a slum kid from dwelling in the bottom of society to unbelievable victory at a game show by having answers to questions which cannot be hurdled by infinitely more learned and educated men, professionals who one would expect not to grapple for the answers.
Jamal (Dev Patel) looked like a geeky nobody. He didn’t stand out because of good looks, intelligence, power, influence or wealth. Otherwise, he wouldn’t need to join a game show wherein the objective is to win loads of cash. Actually, Jamal looks like the ordinary person you see or don’t particularly notice on the street. If you spot him or not depends on the kind of eyes you look at the world. His being the everyday type of person all the more caused viewers to be glued to their sets since they can identify with him. In life, you don’t have to look like a winner to be a winner.
In the ways of the world, Jamal played his cards to lose. He didn’t resort to the wily ways of one-upmanship, of fighting fire with fire, in descending to crime even when it seemed it was the only course to take in order to succeed in his wretched world.
Jamal and his brother Salim (Madhur Mittal) had the same experiences, the same choices presented to them. They also had the same potential for humanity, kindness and conscience deep inside. They differed on the choices they made, on the way they chose to react to life. Salim opted to swim with the current, to play by the crooked rules which operated in their slum environment. He saw it as choosing not to be the victim but to be the victimizer, since it was a thug kill thug world.
Jamal decided within to let his humanity and basic goodness prevail no matter the circumstance. It wasn’t always losing all the time, although it entailed learning lessons after being duped, cheated and misled. He earned minor victories by learning from his mistakes and trusting in his instincts to avoid being taken advantage of.
Latika (Freida Pinto) is the perpetual victim of circumstances and later, of choices made when she was left with no other option. Salim said she’ll turn out all right as she always does, but it depends on whose definition “all right” is. Ultimately, she is the luckiest unlucky girl, being the object of true, unending love.
In the film, the government was sadly inutile. It was useless in its absence of effort to uplift the poverty of its citizens. The industrial progress depicted in the passage of time cannot be clearly attributed to the government’s efforts. Different faces of the police was portrayed. There were cops who didn’t bother to keep the peace and order in the face of a riot, not lifting a finger to assist a man who was burning to death. Some law enforcers resort to torture to pry the kind of truth they wanted from hapless suspects. Some officers pursue mischievous little kids while apologizing to big-time crime lords. Gangs who prey on helpless orphans roam freely. It needed a person who was basically good but with misguided morality to eliminate criminal masterminds to rescue the oppressed.
For Jamal to have the correct answers was a combination of sheer luck, cleverness in dealing with treachery and the burden of experience earned through suffering, loss and death.
This film is meaningful to me on a personal level because of its message that supports and confirms the message of Easter – that of hope, new life, unexpected blessings, the triumph of good over evil and of a glorious destiny awaiting those who do not give up and strive to live uprightly, whatever it takes.
At the culmination of a consequential Holy Week spent in quietude fulfilling motherly duties at home, holding on to the Lord, filling idle moments in prayer and reflection, this film confirms that while I am clawing my way out of darkness and despondency, this too shall pass.
During Easter Sunday mass, the priest said evil triumphs only on Good Friday. In the end, goodness and light will surface and that which will last. We just have to hold on to the Lord in faith.
In my life, I don’t have all the answers. Experience is currently still giving me lessons. But I know where to get the answers, or more particularly from Whom, if not when.
Our omniscient God has the answers. Our God who is Love. Thus, love is the answer. Indeed, as the song goes.
In the end, goodness and love will triumph. And that, I believe, is my destiny.