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Slumdog Millionaire in our magazines

THE MOVIE: Slumdog Millionaire

Dev Patel • Freida Pinto
DIRECTOR: Danny Boyle

Dev Patel and Freida Pinto THE CONCEPT:
Jamal Malik (Patel) is one question away from winning 20 million rupees on India’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire, but when the show breaks for the night he is arrested on suspicion of cheating. How could an uneducated street kid possibly know so much? Jamal tells the Police Inspector tales of his slum life in Mumbai that reveal how he knows the answers to the show’s seemingly impossible questions – but one question remains a mystery: why is he really on a game show?

U.S. RELEASE: November 12 2008, Nationwide
• Rated: R


Danny Boyle“They sent me the script and my agent said it was a film about Who Wants to be a Millionaire, and I thought, ‘I don’t want to do a film about that.’ The only reason I started it was because I’d seen Simon’s (Beaufoy) name on it and I knew his work from The Full Monty. I was lost after about 10 pages. I was completely mesmerized by it. I knew within 10/15 pages that I was going to make it.”

Dev Patel and Freida Pinto“I had done this show in London called Skins. I was a bit character in that, and Danny was having trouble casting Jamal in India, because all the guys are really butch, they need to take their tops off and get under waterfalls [and pose], obviously that’s not me, although I try when I can be bothered (he laughs). So Danny came back to London a bit deflated, and then his daughter was watching TV and my big gob’s on the screen, and she’s like, ‘Why don’t you give this guy a go?’ I got a call from the casting director who said, ‘Danny would like to meet you.’ I hadn’t done many auditions before, so I brought my mum with me, because she’s my lucky charm, and there were all these good looking dudes with designer stubble, and I was sitting there with my mum, and I thought, ‘This ain’t going to be good.’ And Danny opened the door and said, ‘Dev, you’re next.’ He was so warm and such a nice person to be around.”

Danny Boyle and Freida Pinto“I couldn’t believe that Danny Boyle was coming to India to make a film, so I went in for the audition. I was quite nervous to meet him, because I know the kind of films that he’s done are extraordinary, he doesn’t do anything that anyone’s every seen before. I knocked on the door and he opened it and said, ‘Hello, Freida, come in,’ and the moment he did that I just settled in. After six months of auditioning, he finally gave me the role.”

“I’m a very positive person, so I’m a bit of a dreamer in that way. Although you choose subjects where you have to be brutal sometimes, and certainly if you go to Mumbai some of the things you see are very shocking, but it wouldn’t be a faithful portrait of the city if you didn’t represent those things. But also what I did love about India is that despite that, it has the most amazing spirit, it’s a very open, positive country. It’s very forward looking in many ways, ironically given the history and given the problems, there’s an incredible future ahead of it.”

“I didn’t really watch Who Wants to be a Millionaire in London to be honest. It wasn’t my thing really, because I’m bad at general knowledge. I’m one of those guys who would be gone on the first question, or get down to 50/50 and then get it wrong.”

“Danny and Dev should be given Indian passports, because I think they have embraced the culture so beautifully. It’s not a very difficult culture to embrace, because it’s very warm and generous by nature, but Bombay can be quite chaotic. It was Dev’s first time in Bombay, and with Bombay you need to either get with it or get out of it. You have to get used to people honking all the time, the driving in Bombay is crazy, and he didn’t complain, after a while he loved it. I think it was a great experience for him, in fact he keeps saying that he really discovered himself over there.”

“I didn’t think this movie would work [in America], I’ve got to be honest, but we got it here and started playing it and it was clear there were a couple of things; one is the underdog, that idea of the guy from nowhere who apparently is unqualified but who has a dream, is very deep in the psyche here. [India] also as a country has got a big heart, and you can feel the heart respond here to it as well, there’s no embarrassment by big emotion [here], so that connects as well.”

PINTO on the big Bollywood dance number at the end of the movie:
“I loved it, but Dev has a different view on it. The script said, ‘And the whole train station bursts into a song and dance,’ and Dev thought it was a metaphor, so it was not really going to happen. When Danny said, ‘You know, you’re actually going to dance,’ I jumped up and said, ‘Yeah, I’m excited, let’s dance.’ Dev was like, ‘I can’t do this. I’m a Brit boy, and everyone’s going to make fun of me when I get back to England.’”

“I can’t dance, and the hardest thing was selling it with my face, with everyone at the station watching, I had to act like I was having the time of my life doing these cheesy moves.”

BOYLE on the buzz of the movie being up for many awards this season:
“I’m very flattered to be involved in it. Anybody who tells you they don’t dream about things like that is lying. But the thing that’s really wonderful about it is that in India all the people who helped us make the film, they’re all on Google alert, so I do interviews and minutes later I get this phone call from India saying, ‘We read the interview you gave four minutes ago.’ So any mention of [awards] they’ll be delighted, because although they have a huge industry, they do keep an eye on Hollywood.”

Written by Judy Sloane. Back to top

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Images above © Fox Searchlight Pictures and Warner Brothers Pictures
Feature © 2008 Visual Imagination.
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Film Review, #701, November 2008 cover

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