The movie is an average fare. Having read the novel, I was disappointed at the liberties taken while adapting this to screen and also at the lack of clarity on how the Jamal was able to answer certain questions. There are a few changes from the novel while adapting it to the screen.
- Ram Mohamed Thomas is replaced by Jamal Malik. There goes the “John Jaani Janardhan” touch from the book. Simon (Beaufoy) does not understand the importance of secularism in Indian movies, thereby losing out on an opportunity to pay homage to Naseeb.
- The lucky coin of Ram Mohamed Thomas is gone! It does not affect the movie. But this was a reference to one of the greatest action movie coming out of Indian film industry (Sholay).
- Jamal has a brother, Salim Malik, more successful than him and with lesser morals. This provides additional drama. Salim’s frustration at his love struck brother reminds one of Parinda.
- Latika, Jamal’s love interest, have a more meatier and a different role from the novel.
As the movie progresses, the questions are asked and then Jamal goes down his memory lane. This technique is good as long as there is a clear indication on how Jamal came to know about the answer for the audience. You finish the movie and ponder about how Jamal would have answered the question. I wished Danny Boyle had not left it open-ended. There are movies where I like this aspect. But, this is definitely not one of them.
But, there are some good points to the movie
- Luck plays an important role in the guise of audience poll and on the final answer when Jamal is elated after talking to Latika.
- Jamal’s love story raises a toast to the hugely successful formulaic love stories seen in the Indian mainstream cinema. As the credit rolls out, Jamal and Latika shakes a leg to “Jai Ho”.
- While Jamal and Salim runs away from the cops through the congested lanes of Dharavi, the camera pans out with breaks to revealing an aerial view of the slums. Even the chase was excellent.
- Irrfan Khan and Saurabh Shukla playing the cops. Although their part is a miniscule one, I loved them.
Anil Kapoor is wasted as a conniving game show host. This is a complex role as he is angry inside while displays warmth outside. This did not come out very well.
I also wish they had casted the characters, Maman and Punnoose, correctly. Ideally, these two should be two sleazy Malayalis.
The movie is touted as the Indian “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”. We share a common thread with the Chinese. Like them, we also dislike our “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”.