I was never fully persuaded by the love story, the most important element of the entire film.
I take that back. That’s too polite. Not only did we never really know if Latika loved Jamal, I’m inclined to believe she was a gold-digging little bitch, never once worthy of Jamal’s lifelong pursuit.
Let’s talk about love, shall we? Consider this. We boys can be kind of dumb when it comes to women. When we fall for a girl, we have the tendency to project our own feelings onto that woman and we too often just assume that (just because we have huge feelings) that she loves us (or will come around to loving us) in return. At some point, you have to stand back, observe the girl’s actions, and ask yourself, “do these actions prove that she has a strong interest in me?” Women don’t lie with their actions. It’s just, too often, men don’t listen. When their actions tell you they don’t give a shit, you politely walk away.
Just because Jamal was obsessed with Latika, just because he chased her throughout his life and never let her go, we just assume she loves him. But what did Latika ever do to show Jamal she actually loved him?
When Jamal and Latika meet again later in life while she’s with that ugly mobster, they hug in the kitchen. Jamal asks her to run away with him. She walks around the kitchen and says incredibly coldly, “What will we live off of?” “Love” is Jamal’s answer. Maybe it’s the harsh way that Freido Pinto, who played Latika, posed the question that ruined that moment for me. If she really loved him, why would she be so cold to him? He’s not dressed like a slum-dweller. It’s not like he was begging on the streets. He was working at the time. So that wasn’t enough money for her? Is it me or did that come across as totally selfish on her part? It's not that she didn't ask a valid question because she did. What she failed to do was show love toward Jamal when she spoke to him. I don't recall much evidence in the acting or story that Latika felt anything for Jamal or at least enough to persuade me that she was worth all this trouble Jamal has gone through.
But, wait, MM. Latika showed up at the train station, didn’t she? Yes. Now let me ask you a question: did she really want to be with him or did she merely want to escape another bad situation she was in? How do we know that she had any interest at all in HIM?
But, of course, when he’s on TV and he’s about to win millions of rupees, she’s running through the streets like a mad woman.
It's funny. In classic literature, there is always one true love that spans a lifetime. In fact, Slumdog Millionaire reminded me of Pip and Estella in Great Expectations. (Pip could’ve done better, too.) Dickens rewrote his ending and I was always relieved they were “friends apart.” Get over her, will you, Pip? You could do better!
Another aspect of this love affair is Jamal’s lifetime obsession over Latika. On the one hand, that’s romantic. (And good for her because he rescued her more than once.) On the other hand, obsessing about a girl for most of one’s life is a bit unhealthy, don’t you think? Today, that’s what we call a STALKER, is it not? And poor Jamal had obsessed about Latika for so long that he lost all sense of objectivity about whether she loved him in return. Jamal’s time with her as an adult was so infrequent that his love was never rooted in a reality of who she really was. Latika became in his mind this great idea of love that put her up on a pedestal so high in the heavens with expectations impossible to fulfill. If you ask me, the idea of Jamal and Latika living happily ever after with mountains of money is a recipe for disaster. I give them about two weeks before they break-up.
In the end, Jamal said, “It is destined,” which range false to me. I would’ve preferred something more personal from the hearts of the characters. That something is “destined” and things happen as foretold to characters is a self-defeating narrative gimmick. What do the characters want? Does Latika really want this? Instead of Jamal saying, “It is destined,” I would’ve preferred a nice personal sentiment of affection from the dead, shallow, gold-digging heart of Latika.