D. It is Destiny
I am a world traveler. It is what I live for. It is what delights and terrifies me the most. The act of boarding a plane and traveling for several hours to land somewhere where the locals speak a different language, eat a different type of food, follow different customs, worship different gods and live in a world completely different to mine exhilarates me. However, in the last few years, this experience is not what it used to be. These new worlds that I venture to are beginning to eerily resemble each other. Walking past a Dunkin Donuts in
Buenos Aires or a Panda Express in takes a little bit of the fun out of my adventure. In Slumdog Millionaire, this is the theme that stands out for me. It appears that the “Western Uniform” has arrived in Mexico City and it is what drives the palpable greed, misery, ambition and even love of this film. India
According to Merriam Webster, the definition of globalization is “the development of an increasingly integrated global economy marked especially by free trade, free flow of capital, and the tapping of cheaper foreign labor markets”. Globalization and urbanization are incredibly present in the world around us and in this film, they almost take on the film’s backdrop. Some may argue that globalization and urbanization are overwhelmingly positive by connecting wealthy countries with those that are not, and assisting them by implementing their business models and urban structures, in areas where structure, by western standards, was non existent. This is turn results in thriving economies in third world countries, international connections and the bi-product of this grand idea is that the larger wealthy country benefits slightly, but this is only secondary, of course.
In the film., Jamal, a Mumbai teen who grew up in the slums becomes a contestant on the Indian version of “Who wants to be a Millionaire”, a popular game show that originated in Britain and had equal popularity in the United States. Because the show is a game of cultural trivia and Jamal, a humble “Chai Wallah”, is advancing steadily, he is arrested on suspicion of cheating. The film begins at this point and during his interrogation, the audience is taken to the points in Jamal’s life that explain why he knows the answers. These points were often incredibly tragic and usually surround his pursuit of the girl he loves, Latika. Because Jamal makes it known that his motivation for coming on the show were strictly to find Latika, some may argue that this only proves the point that technology by way of Western influence assists Jamal in his romantic pursuit. I however, lean in the direction of Randy Martin when he says “For the last twenty-five years those who might have been lulled by capital’s utopian chords have been subject to a rude awakening.” Because of the ever present caste system in
India it would be nearly impossible for a boy raised in the slums to ever become rich in and this is why it can be perceived that this game show is a wonderful addition to Indian culture, but globalization is like “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”. It is the promise of a real chance for the less fortunate citizen to strike it big and become rich. The only problem with that there is always a “Prem Kumar” in this equation, the character who plays the host of the show, that is waiting to collect or hoping for their failure and, as they say in Vegas, “the house always wins”. India
In the film we see several references to the west, and in most of them, they seem to represent a lure. When young Salim and Jamal are left to live in Mumbai’s landfill after their mother has been murdered, they are found in this dumpster my Maman, a gangster who exploits children, among other things. The boys are scared and alone and when Maman approaches they are mistrusting until he produces and ice cold Coca-Cola and the boys are hooked, They maintain a relationship with Maman until Salim turns the tables on him and kills him in an attempt to rescue Latika, but this forces Salim to flee and eventually fall into the service of Javel a powerful rival of Maman’s, for protection from retaliation. Salim follows a path of greed, ambition and power as Javel is deeply involved in the “gentrification” of the slums in which he was raised. Jamal on the other hand is a Chai Wallah at a call center that provides customer service to British and American customers. Both brothers are at the mercy and employment of greed, one of them is highly driven by it, the other by love.
Ultimately the question at hand does Globalization have a positive effect on
as portrayed in the film “Slumdog Millionaire”?. I agree with Randy Martin once again when he says “As a social force, capital not only dispossesses people of old habits of life but also attaches them otherwise”. I believe that when analyzing our main character, Jamal, we see a character whose life has been eternally marked by tragedy, death, greed and loss. All of these things have lead to him to the very moment in which the film starts and he is on the verge of becoming a millionaire. Every question is tied to a pivotal moment in his life that is marked in his memory and while outwardly millions of rupees and the prospect of seeing Latika again would make anyone believe that this is the best and happiest ending that he could wish for. I disagree. I believe that Jamal would trade the fame, glamour and millions of rupees that he could potentially win for his autographed picture of Amitabh Bachchan, his mother, a life spared of living in a landfill, witnessing children be exploited and blinded, child labor, and the life of his brother. The price of globalization and greed was much to high for Jamal, and while some may argue that he would not have met Latika had all of these things not occurred, I argue that a simple life in India surrounded by your loving family is all you need. It may not make for an Oscar winning film, but nonetheless a happy existence. India
And as far as my travel woes, while an occasional Starbucks or McDonalds sighting is not going to ruin an entire international cultural experience, I do view them as eye sores that I skip in favor of authentic local flavor.
Martin, Randy. “Where Did The Future Go?” Logos 5.1 (2006). Web. 30 Apr. 2012.
Slumdog Millionaire. Dir. Danny Boyle. Fox Searchlight Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures, 2009. DVD.