When is life not a multiple choice question? When does life challenge us to make one choice rather than selecting the ever-tempting ever-impossible All of the Above? There is only one of choice — or at least, this is what Director Danny Boyle presents in the story of Jamal Malik in the award-winning film Slumdog Millionaire. There are four choices: cheating, luck, genius or destiny. Which will Malik choose in answering the final question on the popular game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire to award him 20 million rupees?
The film seeks to explore this question — but begins this quest with a multiple choice question. For experienced test-takers, this is the easiest format of evaluation. The answer is there before you. Even if you don't know the answer, there is a process of elimination to determine a logical answer. There is a 25% chance that you will be correct. However, this isn't the logic usually applied to life decisions. We would call that a gamble or a risk. We would advise otherwise.
Or at least, I would. I would seek out more than four options. I would argue for the alternate answer of All of the Above. I would lobby for it believing that I truly can have it all. That may indeed be why the movie wouldn't work in an America. We truly believe that we can have it all. We believe that we should have it all.
And yet, this is not a film about having it all. It's not a rags to riches story. Instead, it's a story about how a little boy in the slums of Mumbai deals with the realities of his life — his poverty, his mother's death and his brother's loyalty. The answers to the game show questions reflect his life experience. These are the lessons that he learned by living. He's able to answer these questions through the wisdom that he has gathered in his 18 years of life.
This is what amazed me about the film. It's a film that celebrates life. Real life as illustrated in the opening scene where Malik and his brother are be chased through the slums. The camera follows two boys getting into trouble. They're giggling. They're laughing. They're enjoying life — which is the reflection I've heard again and again on mission trips. We're surprised that poor people can be happy. And yet, here are these two boys loving their lives. That is, until their mother catches them. Then the boys are in trouble just like any other disobedient children. As you're watching this, you can't help but giggle. You have to love these kids for being kids. You just can't help it. Your heart leaps out to them. They don't have the answers. They don't have it all. They just have their lives and each other.
This is how Slumdog Millionaire celebrates life. It doesn't matter how many multiple choices there are. It merely matters that you make a choice and live it boldly. Perhaps that is our destiny. I don't know. That sounds over the top. I won't make any claims on destiny or what it means. I will only say that this film charged me to love my life. It was the benediction I needed most.