In Slumdog Millionaire the story follows a young boy, Jamal Malik, and his journey from the slums of India to the popular show “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” The movie is from Jamal’s point of view, and shows the events on how he knew every question’s answer up until the end on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” The show’s producers do not believe that a “slumdog” could have gotten all the questions right up until that point. They interrogate him using various methods including makeshift water boarding, and electrocution. Jamel will not speak, and insists he knew the answers. The story begins with how he knew the answer to the first questions, which was Amitabh.
Opening, there is a gang of children playing ball on an airplane runway. They are soon chased off by guards, and eventually caught by their mother. They return to school, and the book “The Three Musketeers” is thrown at them. Later, Jamal is five years old and is overjoyed for the chance to see his favorite Bollywood star, Amitabh, and to get his autograph. This is the start to his misfortune, as after he obtains this autographed photograph his brother, Salim, sells it. His mother dies soon after in the Bombay Riots, leaving him and his brother without anyone to look after them. This opens him up to relationships and leaves him empty and deeply depending on his brother. During their time caring for themselves, Jamel meets and bonds with Latika who turns into an integral part in his life. Jamel wants her to be the third musketeer, with him and his brother being the first two. He, however, does not know the name of the third musketeer. In his childhood he has many adventures, including working as a beggar for Maman, who is a gangster.
When Maman starts to blind the children to bring in more money, Jamel and his brother run away. During their getaway, Salim purposefully does not help Latika on the train that they have escaped on. This act by his brother devastates Jamel. Their adolescence that follows, leads them through a string of jobs and pickpocketing to support themselves. Jamel never loses sight of finding Latika and returns to Mumbai to find her. Salim eventually murders Maman and joins Javed, the head of Maman’s rival gang. Salim sleeps with Latika and tells Jamel to leave. Jamel never lets go of the memory of Latika, and when given the chance he looks for both her and his brother.
Jamel ultimately finds his brother and reunites with him. It is then, that Jamel finds a way into Javed’s house and finds Latika. He tells her that he loves her, and asks her to meet him in the train station at 5:15. She rejects his love but, none the less, plans to escape to the train station. When she attempts to meet him at the train station, all goes horrible wrong. She is recaptured by Javed with the help of Salim and carried away. When Latika and Javed move outside of the city, Jamel is grief stricken to have lost her. It is then that Jamel makes it a mission to get onto Latika’s favorite game show, “Who Want’s To Be A Millionaire?” He becomes a hero, as he climbs the money ladder higher and higher.
During the viewing of the game show, Salim gives Latika his cell phone. He asks for her forgiveness and tells her to go to Jamel. He fills Javed’s bathtub with money, and waits with a gun. The game show’s final question, in order to win the million dollars, is the name of the third musketeer. He uses his phone-a-friend, and calls his brother’s cell phone. This leads him to talk to Latika, and gives him happiness. When Javed hears Latika on the show, he knows what has happened. He goes back to seek vengeance and finds Salim. Salim shoots and kills him before being killed himself. Jamel doesn’t know the final question and guesses. He now doesn’t care if he wins, because now knows Latika is safe. Jamel ends up winning the million dollars, and finally reuniting with his long lost love.
The circumstances that these three children are living in, are less than ideal. Not only is their life surrounded by the violence from the Bombay riots, they are also orphaned and under the care of gangsters. You can see that they believe that money can buy them happiness and the good life. When Jamel and Latika are sitting on the porch stairs talking about living in a big house on Harbour Street, it is their idea of a fantasy world. He truly believes that a nice house and money would make him happy. As Jamel grows, you can see him realize that his relationships are more important. Salim however, does not come to this conclusion and suffers from it.
One example in the book, was the story of the Yagua village in the Amazon. These people live in a traditional village with no modern technology, and very little contact to the outside world. They are very happy people, and enjoy their life. The difference between these people and the children from Slumdog Millionaire, is for one, the lack of family and a providing figure in their life. The village is a close knit community, and the children in Slumdog Millionaire have no one to care for them. Another difference is that the people in the village do not see others who are better off than them. The people living in the slums see others more prosperous than them everyday. These are some of the reasons why most of the characters are not happy.
Slumdog Millionaire defines happiness as having strong relationships with others. Jamel strives to be close to others, whether it is his mother, brother, or Latika. He values his close relationships above all else. The film focuses on Jamel’s positive outlook at his circumstances and does not allow for them to beat him down. Money also seems like a prominent goal for the characters, but for the character’s who obtain money they are unhappy. The book talks about how money does not buy happiness. We specifically talked about how when people were surveyed and asked whether they would want to make $100,000 a year when everyone else was making $50,000 a year or make $100,000 a year when everyone else was making $200,000 a year.
Most people chose the former, and that specifically relates to this. Besides the million dollar win in the end, the amount of money and lifestyle would not be considered as luxurious in the US or other first world countries. Javed and Salim wanted more in their life, and was most likely from other influences. In the ending scene, it wasn’t about money that made Jamal happy, but rather the fact he knew Latika was safe. It also made him happy to talk to her and reestablish their relationship.
Salim as a child has virtuous qualities, but becomes more and more self centered and deceitful as his life progresses. He shows himself as a caring brother when saving Jamel from Maman and the gang when they are going to blind him. Besides this one instance, he has a tendency to think of himself and takes what he wants. He tries to take Latika from Jamel multiple times, and only finally relents before his death. These attributes do not lead him to find relationships with other people. His life circumstances has greatly affected his path to his death. He had very few choices in his life and as a street child large amounts of money and power are addicting. He knew very little of life, and became accustomed to his lifestyle. He made the choices and chose to stay with them. This in turn, inhibits his happiness and ultimately leads to his death.
Latika had a presumed hard childhood and was in the care of Maman for the majority of her childhood. She was turned into a prostitute against her will, and was being pruned into a well versed singer and dancer in order to fetch a high price for her virginity. Her life circumstances were made for her, and she was not happy. Her relationship with Salim, and the luxurious lifestyle also did not bring her true happiness. It wasn’t until Jamel showed her “true love” that she was happy. This is shown in the book; relationships foster happiness.
Jamel had a difficult childhood, but made the best of it in his multitude of jobs or money making strategies. He never lost sight of what was truly important and realized that relationships were what would make him truly happy. He resisted the vices that his brother fell easily into. Money did not tempt him, and he merely went on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” to get Latika’s attention. He was not money hungry, but rather love sick. He found his happiness in Latika. Through his journey he found happiness in his situation, whatever it may be. He had a very positive outlook, and this helped him find this happiness. As with the twins we watched in class, one had a positive outlook while the other didn’t. Jamel used his positive outlook to his advantage.
The main lesson one could learn from Slumdog Millionaire would be that everyone can obtain happiness. Jamel took what he had, and made it work in his life. He was cunning, and eventually found happiness by never giving up on what he believed in. Despite the harsh circumstances, he worked through his obstacles and found both love and happiness. This is a lesson that everyone should learn. No matter what the circumstances may be, there is a way to get through them and find inner happiness.
Another lesson that the movie touches on, is that money does not buy happiness. Salim focused his life on money, and ultimately lost all that he held dear to him and died. It is through this that one can learn that greed and money do not allow for happiness and a good life. Honest work and a loving relationship should outweigh easy money and shallow forced relationships. Salim had a tragic life, and it wasn’t until the end that he came to terms with his life.
Slumdog Millionaire was an inspirational movie, that showed anyone can obtain happiness (or a flash mob in a train station…) The moral of the story was that even people living in slums can achieve anything. It was a bitter-sweet ending that invoked a lot of emotion in the watcher. I personally felt that it held a strong message, and was portrayed in a unique style. The flashbacks made the movie easy to organize. I found it easy to sympathize with the characters and enjoyed their humor and laughter. It was interesting to see an insight into the Indian culture. My own Western view does, of course, not let me fully appreciate the culture as they see it. None the less, I enjoyed the movie and the analysis.
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