Various cultural texts tend to address racial issues to the society. The authors of such editions do approach racial problems from the diversified dimensions. The film Slumdog Millionaire remains no exception in channeling its context in the same direction. Slumdog Millionaire is a 2008 British drama film with Danny Boyle as the director, Christian Colson as the producer, and Simon Beaufoy as the writer. The movie setting and filming occur in India telling a story about Jamal Malik. The young boy aged 18 from one of the slums in Mumbai becomes a contestant for the Indian version of Who Wants to Become Billionaire program. He joins the show because he wants to reunite with his childhood friend Latika whom he loved. It gave him an outstanding opportunity to become a millionaire. Ironically, Malik is able to answer all the questions of each stage simultaneously making the executives of the program accuse him of cheating. The most intriguing part of the movie is Malik’s ability to have such wide knowledge, even though he is just a young poor slum dweller. He also works as a Chaiwalla (tea boy) at one of the cellphone centers. Logically, there is an obvious impossibility for a simple uneducated “slumdog” to outwit all the other contestants. The most interesting part is how Jamal won 10 million rupees and was only one question away from winning the 100 million. In the film Malik uses flashbacks to recount various occurrences in his life that enable him to answer every question that is asked by the show host Prem (Anil Kapoor). With these unfolding scenarios Jamal finds himself in a difficult situation as he has to convince his antagonists that he really knew the questions asked by the host. The film explores the issue of ethnic and racial segregation in factors such as cultural appropriation, power dynamics, beauty standards and privilege. Moreover, it tries to express the socio- economic situation in India. Even though it is satirical, it tries to be self-conscious in its presentation of the race. I believe that the film explores race related discriminations because of the present cultural appropriation, power dynamics and Indian representation in the story as discussed below.
Cultural appropriation is a sociological concept that perceives the use of an element of one particular culture by the members of another culture negatively. It is an assumption that borrowed culture is also an oppressed one. The Slumdog Millionaire explores cultural appropriation by focusing on one man’s story as the police officers torture him. This act is the highest point of the cultural appropriation as it views Malik’s extremely poor life with much sorrow and disappointments. The film focuses on the slum life with a lot of hardships, heartbreaks, and corruption. The writer Boyle depicts much hopelessness and despair instead of making an empowering, resilient and romantic movie. Moreover, it illustrates real and troubling experiences of those living in poverty in a simpler and more glorified way all for the benefit of the viewers.
Another problem is the power dynamics. It defines the complexity of power and how its use can affect the lives of the citizens. The video gives a clear picture about the oppressive power dynamics in Mumbai at the present. The expression appears when a skeptical police officer tries to get a confession from Jamal that he cheated in the contest. This torture does not yield any information and he goes ahead to ask Jamal all the questions he was asked. Consequently, there seems no father figure in Jamal’s life. However, there is a teacher who, instead of protecting him, scolds and hits Jamal with his book. In essence, all the males in the young man’s life range from being distant to being hostile thereby making him tackle paternal images differently. The writer clearly expresses power dynamics between the races and ethnic groups from the way he views the Indian administration. It portrays the police as the organization that forgot its original responsibility to protect people and chose to torture them. The writer being a British demonstrates Mumbai as a rotten system since the people with the mandate to guide others became harsh and irresponsible. For instance, the film depicts some teachers mocking, scolding and sometimes hitting the students instead of educating them the right way.
Furthermore, the representation of India by the writer is not very far from reality though it doesn’t portray India as a whole. It only focuses on what happens in some parts of the country. The movie is set in Bombay, presently Mumbai; though it is known that most Indians live in the villages. Therefore, a movie that shows more of village life with its water problems would give a true representation of India. As a result, representing Jamal Malik as a tea seller might have been the outcome of the imagination of the writer in order to show his poor background.
On the other hand, the issues of power dynamics, cultural appropriation and representation prove vital for handling various problems in the society. For example, the author possibly uses the cultural appropriation as a forum to create awareness on certain issues that the civil rights in India ignore. This observation remains clear in the case of Jamal when he is unfairly tortured for winning the contest. More than that, despite the writer depicting hopelessness and despair in the life of Jamal, it should be seen as an opportunity to eradicate poverty and make life better. Though the movie is criticized for exposing the terrible life of the slum dwellers, it arises real and troubling experiences of those living in poverty. It also attempts to struggle for development. Many see power dynamics as being oppressive, brutal and irresponsible in the case of police and teachers. However, they should perceive it as an act of exposing incompetence on the side of both the teachers and the police. This exposure should enable the leadership to improve the system. The British writer portrays Mumbai as a city with a corruptive administrative system, it should not be taken as negative publicity but a chance to improve on the current system and perhaps make changes. Representation is another concept that attracted much hostility constantly accusing the writer for analyzing Mumbai and India at large in a negative way. On the positive side, critics should take it as a key issue that they need to address promptly. It may not be the real representation but all these factors point at the challenges that cripple the development of India.
In conclusion, I believe that the film explores race related discriminations because of the present cultural appropriation, power dynamics and Indian representation in the story. Despite the people’s socio-economic differences, everyone should be given an equal chance to express themselves without scorn because all the people are smart in their own way. The film highlights the situations which slum dwellers should daily experience, the helpless surrounding where they constantly find themselves. These factors are of a great significance because aside from just mentioning them, the director ends the movie in an encouraging way. The author believes that with determination and resilience, one can overcome all the obstacles. Jamal’s story should be a an essence of hope which states that despite all the hardships we can achieve just about anything we are passionate about. The issues that Boyle addressed in the Slumdog millionaire are not far from what most cities of the world face. Such problems should be received with great positivity because, in one way or another, they aim at raising major but ignored society questions.