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Jamal Malik (left), played by Dev Patel, makes his way from the slums of Mumbai to the final question of India’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, hosted by Prem Kumar (right, Anil Kapoor), in the film “Slumdog Millionaire.
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Slumdog Millionaire

Directed by Danny Boyle

Written by Simon Beaufoy

Based on the Novel ‘Q and A’ by Vikas Swarup

Starring Dev Patel

Now Playing in Theaters

I was a little skeptical walking into a movie centered on the premise of finding a lost love. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not a fan of the romance genre. I decided to go into “Slumdog Millionaire” with an open mind and was pleasantly surprised.

The movie begins with a multiple choice Who Wants to be a Millionaire-style question about why the main character, Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), is doing so well on the game show:

A. He cheated

B. He’s lucky

C. He’s a genius

D. It is destiny

While Jamal is tied up and given shock therapy on the suspicion of the first answer, the storyline of the film is held together on the premise of the last.

“Slumdog” doesn’t pretend to be anything that it isn’t, much like Jamal. The movie takes the audience on an honest journey through the slums of Mumbai India with little vignettes from Jamal’s life. Each story reveals not only how Jamal knew the answer to each question but also why he came on the show: enter Latika (Freida Pinto).

Latika is the childhood friend and love interest that keeps bringing Jamal back to Mumbai, in hopes of finding her. Not a fan himself, he gets on the show hoping that she will be watching.

Throughout the film we watch as young Jamal and his brother, who are on their own from a very young age, grow up. While Jamal’s brother is seemingly the one who travels down the bad path of conning and mob rings, Jamal is focused on being reunited with Latika.

The story line is held together with each question corresponding to another part of Jamal’s past that is revealed: from his care-free youth, meeting Amitabh Bachan, a famed Bollywood actor, to the traumatic death of his mother during religious riots that forces him to quickly grow up.

The plot seems very unlikely and set up for a fairy tale Hollywood ending. What is truly magical is that you sit through the film, getting so lost in Jamal’s story that you forget the improbability of the situation that he found himself in at the beginning of the film.

It isn’t completely lost since we are constantly reminded when a very upset host of the show, Prem Kumar (Anil Kapoor), who is determined to make Jamal lose, takes cheap jabs at Jamal for being a “Chai Walla” (he serves coffee at a call center). It is Prem who turns in Jamal to the police on the suspicions of cheating.

While you are left wondering if Jamal and Latika will be reunited until the very end, it is the personal story of Jamal which is most gripping and lasting. It is that personal journey and the connections he makes with the people in his life that makes the film worth watching.

With elements of betrayal and forgiveness, friendship and love, it provides for a heartwarming tale of human emotions. While at the core it is a story of lost love, it isn’t hard to appreciate the honesty of the journey.

If you are wanting a typical romance movie for a Saturday night, I would skip, but if you’re in the mood to be taken to another world, one seemingly far removed from your own, but riddled with basic human elements that connect as all, it’s a must see.