At this time of freezing cold, with the downturn biting harder than the frost, what we need is a warm-hearted and endearing feel-good film.
And, thanks to director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Simon The Full Monty Beaufoy, we have just that. Slumdog Millionaire is the most entertaining celluloid tonic you could ask.
An effervescent and charming fable, it follows 18-year-old orphan Jamal — sweetly and sharply played by Dev Patel — who sees his way of breaking out of the slums of Mumbai by winning the Indian version of the television quiz show Who Wants to be a Millionaire, only to have his hopes dashed when he is accused of cheating.
The unwarranted accusation catalyses Jamal’s unforgiveable torture at the hands of the police and also allows him eloquently to tell his life story. The film is a wonderfully enjoyable comedy-drama that brings the slums of Mumbai to bustling life and dramatically contrasts them with the world of showbusiness (the emphasis here as much on business of television as on the glitzy and shallow world of small-screen quiz shows). Boyle (and co-director in India, Loveleen Tandsn) never put a frame wrong while their cinematographer, Anthony Dod Mantle, illuminates the aptly chosen Indian locations without, happily, prettying them up, leaving the well-cast actors to put across the story with persuasive verve and vigour.
Every performance, crowned by Patel’s consistently engaging characterisation, is spot-on, with kudos going to Anil Kapoor whose tooth-gleaming quizmaster is as creepily captivating as any real-life small-screen interrogator. A sparkling and immensely attractive Indian dance number on a railway station platform brings to a close a superb, compassionate and pleasurable-on-every-level film that deserves — and should win — just about every award going.