Slumdog Millionaire is a story of Jamal Malik, a boy from the slum quarters of Mumbai, who became a winner of a popular TV show – Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Because of his success in answering all questions and winning 20 million rupees, police officers suspect him of cheating. The movie is a throwback to life experience, which helped him to obtain the necessary knowledge so that he could answer all questions by himself.
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The story reveals connections with other major characters – Jamal’s brother Salim and the love of his life Latika. The movie depicts hardships of life in India, poverty, poor education, and involvement in criminal activities. At the same time, it points to the significance of simple human values such as love, friendship, and family ties (Slumdog millionaire 2008).
Moreover, Slumdog Millionaire is a valuable guide to Indian culture and values. For instance, opening scenes portray women in traditional clothing – sari. However, later Latika wears jeans and t-shirts, which points to the westernization of Indian culture. Moreover, it is shown that India is a country of contrasts both financial and religious, as the poor and wealthy coexist within one community as well as there are common instances of religious conflicts between Hindu and Muslims.
It is depicted in the assassination of Jamal’s mother during the religious conflict and Salim and Jamal running into a rich man, as they try to escape from policemen. Also, hierarchy is shown, as Salim states that he is the head of the family once their mother gets killed.
Furthermore, the role of religion in everyday life is as well highlighted. For example, it is portrayed when Salim prays and confesses to God in becoming a criminal and when Rama appears to Jamal when they try to escape from Muslim extremists. Finally, the movie ends with traditional dancing, which has become a symbol of Bollywood production and is directly associated with Indian culture (Samovar, Porter, McDaniel, & Roy, 2017; Slumgod millionaire 2008).
That said, the directors portrayed the most remarkable elements of Indian culture. However, some critical determinants such as the caste system and gender differentiation are still missing. A viewer can assume that major characters are from the lowest caste because they live in slums, but it is not directly stated. At the same time, Jamal is free to choose the direction for living his life and finds the way to pursue his love.
However, in real life, it is almost impossible to achieve because of the caste system and arranged marriages. Furthermore, Latika escaped from her husband without significant effort, which as well seems unreal. Nevertheless, it was clearly shown that access to education is unequal for boys and girls, as there were more boys than girls in a classroom at the beginning of the movie (Samovar et al., 2017; Slumdog millionaire 2008).
As I watched Slumdog Millionaire, I realized that it did not affect my perception of Indian culture, as no hidden stories or aspects of culture were revealed. Moreover, some elements of Indian culture were overdramatized such as living in poverty, as it does not characterize the whole country. However, it is still helpful for enhancing interpersonal communication skills. For instance, it is beneficial for understanding that eye contact is synonymous with challenging a conversation partner (recall the scene when Jamal did listen to the TV host’s hint and gave him a long stare).
Finally, it portrays how culture influences communication style and behaviors. “I am the elder, and I am the boss” (Slumdog millionaire 2008) is the phrase that had a robust impact on relations between Salim and Jamal, as Jamal believed that he had ultimate power and could make all vital decisions pointing to the existing hierarchy. As a younger brother, Jamal had to choose either to obey Salim or live his own life. To sum up, even though Slumdog Millionaire is not the best and most accurate introduction to Indian culture and values, it is still a valuable guide to understanding some of its key aspects.
Colson, C. (Producer) & Boyle, D. (Director). (2008). Slumdog millionaire [DVD]. United Kingdom: Warner Bros. Pictures.
Samovar, L. A., Porter, R. E., McDaniel, E. R., & Roy, C. S. (2017). Communication between cultures (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.