An Oscar-Winning, Crowd-Pleasing Melodrama Set in Mumbai
Winner of eight Academy Awards including Best Picture, Slumdog Millionaire (2008) dazzles the viewer with exotic locations, exuberant filmmaking, Bollywood music and a rags-to-riches story with a feel-good ending. The movie won Oscars for its cinematography, film editing, sound mixing and musical score. It also earned a Best Director Academy Award for Danny Boyle, whose eclectic body of work includes Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Millions and Sunshine.
Slumdog Millionaire is reminiscent of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, except the sensibilities are updated and the setting is transposed from 19th-century London to modern-day Mumbai. The film's protagonist is an orphan named Jamal, who grows up in the teeming Indian city's squalid, but colorful slums, where he has an extraordinary series of adventures, some of which are quite harrowing. But as a young adult, he ends up as a contestant on the television quiz show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Shots of Jamal on the TV program are intercut with those of him undergoing a brutal interrogation.
Other important characters in the film are Jamal's brother Salim and a girl named Latika. An important story element is the romance between Jamal and Latika, who are played as young adults by British TV actor Dev Patel and the pretty model Freida Pinto.
Slumdog Millionaire is part travelogue and part social commentary, but it is primarily an entertaining and emotionally engaging melodrama. The closing credits feature a rousing Bollywood musical number performed by two trainloads of dancers.
A Pair of Audio Commentaries
The Slumdog Millionaire DVD provides two separate feature-length audio commentaries. The better of the pair is the one by director Danny Boyle and lead actor Dev Patel. Boyle says that peanut butter and chocolate were used in the celebrated scene where a boy appears to plunge into human waste in a hole under an outdoor toilet. The director also reports that the sequence where rightwing Hindu nationalists attack a Muslim slum had to be shot on a set built out in the countryside. He also mentions that the spectacular big Mumbai train station where they filmed some key scenes turned out later to be one of the sites attacked by terrorists in November 2008.
The second audio commentary is by producer Christian Colson and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, who, for his work on the film, won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, using as source material Vikas Swarup's novel Q & A. Beaufoy says he didn't think the novel title was enough of a grabber, so he made up a catchier one for the movie, inventing the word "slumdog" based on his impression of canines in shantytowns. The screenwriter also admits that, contrary to his script, very few Indians are familiar with Dumas' The Three Musketeers.
A Making-Of and Deleted Scenes
The 23-minute "Slumdog Dreams: Danny Boyle & the Making of Slumdog Millionaire" is a so-so promotional piece, but it does allow you to see and hear from the director, the screenwriter, the producer, the cinematographer, the romantic leads (Dev Patel and Freida Pinto) and famous Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor, who is excellent as the snarky quiz show host.
The DVD contains 12 deleted scenes with a total runtime of 34 minutes. In his feature-film audio commentary, Boyle points out where most of these scenes would fit and explains they were nearly all cut for purposes of pacing. He was wise to realize that he was making a movie that was above all about energy and movement.
Also on the DVD is the five-and-a-half-minute "Slumdog Cutdown," a sort of music video for "Jai Ho," which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. As the lively musical number is heard on the soundtrack, a montage of footage from the movie is shown.
Below I have listed all the details for the Slumdog Millionaire DVD.
Release Date: March 31, 2009
Feature Film Runtime: 2 hours 0 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Some Violence, Disturbing Images and Language
Widescreen (2.35:1), Color
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (With Some Hindi Dialogue Subtitled in English)
French Dolby Surround
English Captions for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Audio Commentary by Director and Lead Actor
Audio Commentary by Screenwriter and Producer
Slumdog Dreams: Danny Boyle & the Making of Slumdog Millionaire (23 min.)
Deleted Scenes (12 scenes, total runtime = 34 min.)
Slumdog Cutdown (5 1/2 min.)