The film, Slumdog Millionaire, is about a slumdog from Mumbai, India who is turned millionaire when he gets a chance to be on India’s version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”. It provides quite the look at slums in Mumbai and how a slum’s people can be totally won over by a Western game show especially one that might allow one to move up a class or two.
The opening sequence features children playing stickball (or something like it) and security forces storming through with vehicles followed by guards on foot who chase the children down on foot. The children are from the slums.
Jamel Malik, the slumdog who made it on to “Millionaire”, is seen as a child running through the slums along with his brother, Salim Malik. The two run into a guardian (possibly a mother although it is not clear). The two are hurried to a classroom with other children of the slums who are passing around what books they have and are reading The Three Musketeers.
At the same time that the audience is being introduced to the lives of children in the slums, a sharp and wretched introduction to the caste system in India is playing out as Jamel is slapped around, beaten, and even electrocuted by a guard who is doing the work of detectives who think Jamel was “cheating” on “Millionaire.”
Cinematography breathes life into this film unlike any other film released in 2008. The shots are off-kilter. Sometimes they are tight on the children giving us the chance to be in the tight corridors of the slums. And, then the camera pulls back to give us a wide shot and an aerial view of the slums, which are quite the sight.
At times, it's as if somebody who produced and created music videos for MTV during the 80s is in control of the film.
The soundtrack---the sound effects and the score---plunges us into the climate and setting. A.R. Rahman’s masterful work pulls vocals from Sri Lankan star M.I.A. and other Indian musicians and blends the vocals in with drums, sitar, and other instruments, beats, and tones.