It is indeed funny how Hollywood cinema seems to have taken a fascination for all things Indian over the last 5-6 years or so. Using Indian songs as playback scores for various big budget Hollywood disaster movies etc, over-hyped Broadway Shows such as Bombay Dreams (hope that the Broadway version of LOTR will not be as amateurish) that dare to claim partial ownership for ARR's soaring global popularity today, Bollywood actors (other than Om Puri, I mean) being cast in decent roles in Hollywood movies, studios setting up big time to produce Indian films ...- the Indian cinema industry has never had it better. Indian cinema is hot in the global market right now - and SDM makes its entry just the right time.
Many have attacked SDM for taking potshots at the underbelly of India - riots, poverty, beggars etc. Although there is a ring of truth to these accusations, there is no denying the fact that the unique plot, screenplay and above all the director Danny Boyle's vision makes SDM a very refreshing movie experience (perhaps not all that it is being made out to be right now, but a very fine movie neverthless). Also, in defense of SDM, showcasing India's poverty and hardship of life is not at all the intent here, unlike other movies like Salaam Bombay, Fire etc (although I did find Salaam Bombay just brilliant); SDM is basically an 'underdog-truimphing' movie. I guess the plot device is pretty much familiar to everybody by now, but for the uninitiated - SDM narrates the tale of Jamal who is in the 'hot seat' of KBC having answered all but the final question, much to the increasing chagrin of egoistic and insecure anchor Prem Kumar.
There are quite a few scenes in the movie that stood out for me- a young Jamal wading out through a pool of shit to get an autograph of Bachchan, the idol of Lord Rama amongst the riots, Jamal reeling off tales made on the spur of the moment with just enough real historical figures thrown in to wide-eyed gullible foreigners, the hilarious reference to the practice of chappal stealing prevalent across every single religious / tourist institution in India, Jamal's euphoria on rescuing Latika turning into hot white anger and then despair as his brother then takes claim over her, a couple of repartees Jamal throws at the hapless constable (Sourabh Shukla), the bathroom scene with Prem Kumar - I could keep going on, which pretty much indicates how I felt about the movie, I guess!
SDM owes a lot to casting director Loveleen Tandan, who gets the best actors for the parts - especially the child actors who are just brilliant. Dev Patel is extremely good as Jamal - he looks the right age, and has the right disarming underdog quality that makes one root for him. Anil Kapoor could have been better, I thought. Irffan Khan is pitch perfect (when is he not?). The standout performers for me, though, were young Azhar and Ayush who played the young Salim and Javed respectively - their innocent faces and reactions pretty much made the movie for me. As for ARR, honestly he has done much more impressive work in India - neither his b/g score nor the songs can hold a candle to the kind of work he has already done in Dil Se, Rang De Basanti, Lagaan, Iruvar, Minsara Kanavu etc - just goes on to show that some things take longer to change after all, I guess :).
Verdict: Extremely good, a must-watch.