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Jamal Malik, a penniless eighteen year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, is one question away from winning a staggering 20 million rupees on India’s “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” But when the show breaks for the night, suddenly, he is arrested on suspicion of cheating. After all, how could an uneducated street kid possibly know so much?
Determined to get to the bottom of Jamal’s story, the jaded Police Inspector spends the night probing Jamal’s incredible past, from his riveting tales of the slums where he and his brother Salim survived by their wits to his hair-raising encounters with local gangs to his heartbreak over Latika, the unforgettable girl he loved and lost. Each chapter of Jamal’s increasingly layered story reveals where he learned the answers to the show’s seemingly impossible quizzes. But one question remains a mystery: what is this young man with no apparent desire for riches really doing on the game show?
When the new day dawns and Jamal returns to answer the final question, the Inspector and sixty million viewers are about to find out…
|Writer:||Simon Beaufoy (screenplay), Vikas Swarup (novel)|
|Producer:||Christian Colson, Ivana Mackinnon, Paul Ritchie|
|Cast:||Freida Pinto (adult Latika), Dev Patel (adult Jamal), Madhur Mittal (adult Salim), Anil Kapoor (Prem Kumar), Irrfan Khan (Police Inspector), Mahesh Manjrekar (Javed). Click here for full cast & crew|
|Genre:||Drama, Romance||Budget:||$15 million|
|Runtime:||120 minutes||Box office (worldwide):||$377,910,544|
|MPAA rating:||Rated R for some violence, disturbing images and language|
|Filming locations:||Mumbai and Agra, India|
|World premiere:||August 30, 2008 at the Telluride Film Festival|
|US release:||November 12, 2008 (limited)|
Latika: You’re a sweet boy, Jamal.
Latika: You want to do something for me?
Jamal Malik: Anything.
Latika: Then forget me!
Jamal Malik: I knew you’d be watching.
Latika: I thought we would meet only in death.
Jamal Malik: This is our destiny.
Latika: Kiss me.
The casting process took director Danny Boyle and produvcer Christian Colson all over the US, Canada, the UK and India in search of the right actors that could deliver a convincing performance in English and also fit across the three ages of the story – 7, 13, and 18.
Latika being the love interest, but also sharing very little screen time with Jamal meant the team needed to find someone who writer Simon Beaufoy describes as “someone you would crawl across the earth for.” Beaufoy says the actress that Danny cast for Latika, Freida Pinto “…has got that extraordinary beauty alongside a strong sense of sadness about her, which we needed very much for her part in the film.
When researching the script, Beaufoy found that a considerable number of women, particularly from the slums, tended to take second place to the men in decision-making. Having Latika as a passive character created difficulties. “In terms of the drama, it’s not very good to have this passive person, so I tried to make Latika a more active character. But in truth, India takes over and she’s made to be at the whim of these very powerful men, which is absolutely as it is in India.”
Casting director and Indian co-director Loveleen Tandan contacted model Pinto’s agent, saying there was a casting for the female lead. Pinto explains “My agent said, “I think you should go for it since you are very interested in acting.” So I went and met her at her office and the first thing I thought was, she’s really warm, really nice and she said, “It’s a Danny Boyle film!” and I was like, “… Trainspotting!” I knew Trainspotting really well because when I was in college we had a film appreciation course and we had Trainspotting as one of the films. I really liked it,” she smiles.
As casting continued, Pinto waited for six months before she finally knew she’d got the part. “It was a rollercoaster ride to be honest because the first month after the audition with Loveleen, Danny came down for the test. I was really nervous because I had never met a director close up in person before. By the fourth month I thought, this wasn’t working, the reason why they keep calling me back was because they think I’m not good enough and they’re giving me another chance and that’s it. The fifth audition and I’m out of this. So by the sixth audition I was almost in tears. ” But after the sixth month, when my agent called and said, ”You’re on girl!” I was ecstatic, I just couldn’t believe it until I actually went and signed my contract.”
Approaching the character of Latika was a process that Pinto found exhilarating. Having Boyle guide her through the scenes, offering advice and allowing the freedom to try fresh approaches to the script meant she quickly developed a solid understanding of where the character’s strengths would come from. “Danny wanted me to explore the character as much as I could. Loud facial expressions really don’t do much for an actor. Internalisation is something that Danny really taught me.”
Although all the scenes involving Pinto were intense, conveying her pain and helplessness, she was caught off guard at VT station when a passer-by mistook her for someone who was genuinely in distress. She explains the scene,“These goons kept dragging me into the car and I’m screaming, “Jamal, Jamal!” literally asking people to help me and nobody really does and then they finally put me into the car and I come back to the next shot again. This guy came up to me and said, “Are you okay? Do you need any help?” and I just looked at him and said, “We’re shooting”. He said, “You scared the life out of me, you know.” I was really happy because it was convincing.”