Slumdog Millionaire was the overwhelming winner at Sunday's Academy Awards. The movie, directed by Danny Boyle, won eight Oscars including one for best picture.
Set in Mumbai, India, it is a story about destiny. Jamal Malik, a young man from the slums, becomes a contestant on the Indian reality show Who Wants to Be A Millionaire. Based on its American equivalent, the Indian show offers 20 million rupees ($400,000) to the winner.
Few expected this independent production directed by filmmaker Danny Boyle to make it to the Oscars. But Slumdog is no longer an underdog. It has won viewers' hearts and gained critical acclaim. With ten Academy Award nominations, it is a serious Oscar contender.
Reality show contestant Jamal is not knowledgeable. He just happens to know the answers to the specific questions he is asked. Each question is somehow related to an event that has defined his life.
With their mother dead, Jamal and his brother Salim begin to steal, trade and sleep wherever they can to survive.
But the defining moment in Jamal's life is when an orphan girl named Latika tags along with them.
Latika is taken by gangsters. Jamal will not rest until he sees her again.
Years later, as a young adult, he finds her at a gangster's house. She is locked up, and her only passtime is the Indian TV show Who Wants to Be A Millionaire. Jamal gets on the show so she can watch him.
When the game show host asks Jamal the final question, Jamal finds himself at a loss. The question asks the name of the third musketeer in Alexandre Dumas' novel The Three Musketeers, with Athos and Porthos being the first two. Jamal uses his right to phone a friend for help.
Latika answers the phone. When they were kids, she was the third musketeer. Jamal and Salim were Athos and Porthos.
Director Danny Boyle's love story is influenced by Bollywood, India's film industry, where everything is extreme.
Like most Indian films, Slumdog Millionaire offers up all-consuming passion, tear-jerking drama and a happy ending. The film's dynamic music and vivid colors enhance the emotions. Its fairytale quality does not undermine Boyle's gritty look at today's India, a country of extremes itself.
Slumdog Millionaire's exuberance is contagious. We leave the theater love-struck, exhilarated.
And, as in Jamal's case, we can't help cheer for the Oscar winner.