Slumdog: Milioner z ulicy
Studentka Instytutu Filologii Angielskiej Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego (pod kierunkiem dr Justyny Deszcz-Tryhubczak)
The brilliance of lights, constant movement, the noise – these are only a few of the things that first come to one’s mind in connection with „Slumdog Millionaire”. The said elements make the movie seem to be spontaneously vivid, if not vibrant. This dynamism can also be seen in the whole „Slumdog” story, which, even though it is not instantly visible, is not really a pleasant tale with a happy end. Still, slightly spoiling the whole fun of it, the happy end has indeed happened! The viewer is left facing a dilemma whether this story is an authentic visualization of a boy’s success or whether it is a modern fairy tale. Or maybe both?
The story of Jamal, a boy from Indian slums, may seem to be both absurd and quite simple. It centers on an attempt to escape one’s reality, or even on a sort of wish to survive in an unwelcoming environment. This is the way in which one could try to describe Jamal’s and his brother Salim’s childhood.
The story begins, quite surprisingly, from the end. Jamal gets caught by the police under the accusation of the fraud that he was supposed to commit. An important detail is that only a couple of minutes earlier the boy was taking part in the popular TV programme „Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”, waiting for the last, most worthy question. How did an uneducated boy from the slums manage to get so far and accomplish such a goal? This is what both the police officer and the audience watching „Slumdog Millionaire” want to understand. The scene in which Jamal undergoes the interrogation process becomes a chance for him to tell the story of his life, which, paraphrasing the police officer, seems to be both unlikely and true. Pondering over his past, Jamal tells the story of his life, which magically coincides with the answer to the questions stated in „Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”.
The main character’s life, with all its incredibility and undoubtful charm, would not have been the same if not shaped by the extremely rough (but also interesting – such contrasts seem to be present throughout the whole movie) childhood. It is sometimes hard to even call the events in Jamal’s life something close to the experiences from childhood, especially following the common idea of this stage of life as the time of leisure and fun. Both he and his brother are forced to rely on one another since the earliest moments of life. The death of their mother means losing both a family member and someone that was protecting them from the world of adults, in which they had to survive. The children quickly learn that in the reality of adults they cannot seek any compassion or help. During their journey, Jamal and Salim witness acts of children abuse which are presented as a regular element of Indian reality. Prostitution, mutilation, or becoming a member of a gang are only a few of the experiences real-life children from the slums undergo. In most cases, the only alternative possible is death.
It could be concluded that such a childhood is likely to end up with a trauma. The childhood years of Jamal and Salim could be compared with the model of childhood presented by Charles Dickens, filled with the exploitation, violence and the desperate aspiration to improve one’s fate. But, contrasted with the childhood presented in Dickens’s books, childhood represented in „Slumdog Millionaire” seems to be free of the need to give in and submit to the harsh circumstances. Jamal and Salim try to remain positive against all odds. Their story does not only present the cruelty of the world, but also reminds viewers of two important factors thanks to which such tragic moments can be conquered and redeemed. Hope and love are the boy’s insurance in his journey towards adulthood. Even though it may seem banal, only thanks to these two emotions, Jamal does not immerse himself in the wonders of the capitalist world – power and money. The feelings Jamal has for Latika are so strong that they enable him to finally accomplish his goal and find happiness in life.
The belief in the power of love has a really important place in this modern fairy tale. Even Salim learns about its beneficial effects, but in his case the outcome is much more tragic. In the end, the experience of both brothers and their interesting, and quite often entertaining adventures show that the perception of their childhood as a tragic one seems to be a bit overrated. It is a hard time for both of them, but definitely not lacking the sense of enrichment connected with the exploration and understanding of the reality.