This weekend I saw the movie “Slumdog Millionaire.” Initially it arose as an option as my girlfriend wanted to see a movie. As she is a kind and caring person, she was willing to forgo dragging me to “Bride Wars” so that I might find some enjoyment in the movie as well. (Although I offered to allow her to do that so I might play the same card at a future date, likely for the new Quentin Tarantino movie expected later this year). But the options seemed rather meager. My friend had suggested Gran Torino or Yes Man. Neither interested me much beyond a rental, and I certainly didn’t want her to think I played my card for one of those choices, undoubtedly indebting me to see the next “chick flick” that spurred her interest. So I researched (meaning I actually read the synopsis) of the movies available.
“Slumdog Millionaire” seemed to have a pretty original idea. A poor young man in India, who had basically raised himself (with his brother) on the streets, is on the game-show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” Because he is uneducated and is being successful on the show, he is accused of cheating. In explaining how he knows the answers, he recounts aspects of his life.
For those who love, or even like children, or who just don’t want to see them hurt emotionally or physically, the images are a bit disturbing. I don’t want to give anything away, so suffice it to say the boys and their newfound same age female friend have a tough life. It isn’t just the difficulties (minimally stated) that they endure that is difficult to witness, but also the poverty that many live with in that country does not sit well with empathetic viewers. The fact that people live that way today is a true travesty.
Despite these disturbing images and themes, the movie is moving and powerful. It resonates on several themes: paths chosen, the beauty of unconditional love, redemption, and in my opinion the beginning of enlightenment. Without giving anything away, this young man is recounting his difficult and traumatic life, and explaining how these traumas have led him to be winning on a game show. I read a passage recently about enlightenment from the book “Change your Thoughts Change Your Life, Living the Wisdom of the Tao” by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer which suggests that the first stage of enlightenment is seeing in hindsight how what were perceived as negative events in your life were “actually gifts disguised as problems.” (pg304). Now I am certainly not saying winning money is the only way this happens, in life or in the movie, but I believe the movie makes the point beautifully.
I don’t want to go into it anymore than I have for fear of telling too much. But I just want to say that it is movies like this that move people in a positive direction.