The Wizard of Mumbai

Last weekend, my husband and I went to see Slumdog Millionaire at the local 24-plex. It’s a wonderful movie: compelling, kinetic, dramatic,  and emotional. Good-hearted Jamal and his beautiful Latika are a couple for the ages. Jamal and his brother Salim are reminiscent of Pat O’Brien and James Cagney in Angels with Dirty Faces.

An extra treat about the film — for the untraveled, like me — is that it provides a chance to see what Mumbai, India looks like.

Anu Garg, the honorable dispenser of A-Word-A-Day, recently described Mumbai this way:

There appears to be some law there that everyone has to have at least one cellphone . . . In the absence of a cellphone, any small portable electronic device can satisfy the regulation. I swear I saw a beggar on the sidewalk with the wires of an mp3 player hanging out of his ears.

Only in Mumbai: A shop selling $100,000 Porsches can be around the block to a shop selling bananas (with a total inventory of perhaps $100).

Only in Mumbai too: Space is at such a premium that in certain neighborhoods, buying a parking spot for a Toyota in the parking lot of your building might cost you a Porsche.

As this crowded, sacred yet sullied, beautiful/ugly, often violent city unfolds before your eyes in the film, it almost seems as if you are in Oz. Jamal, the leading character, is, to me, a kind of Dorothy, who must follow his life’s path without getting killed, in order to:

  • kill the witch (here a truly perverse child-user)
  • get past the wizard (a wily quiz-show host)
  • and get “home” (his true love, Latika  — and a fortune, too)

I won’t tell you whether Jamal succeeds, but I will say that his adventure is worth the price of admission (which certainly has gone up a lot, hasn’t it?).

Take yourself to Slumdog Millionaire and take the kids. That’s my opinion; others might say it’s too violent for kids, but I think that, with your guidance, the chance to see how people in other parts of our world really live is something not to be missed. Go off to see the wizard . . .

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