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From dust to gold

A reflection upon the movie “Slumdog Millionaire”


My text is primarily an attempt to shed some light on the underlying psychological processes shown throughout the movie regarding how social background and status affect the way one is treated in the society.

Produced in 2008, “Slumdog Millionare” is a drama film directed by British filmmaker, producer, and writer Danny Boyle. It is a story about a young Indian Muslim man named Jamal Malik, brought up in of one of the many slum-areas of Mumbai city, India, who decides to participate in the Indian version of the well-known TV-show “Who wants to be a millionaire?”.

The main character, Jamal, is a poor man who has had traumatic experiences at a relatively young age, such as the feeling of loss, racism, poor upbringing, and lack of equal opportunities. He chooses to have faith and hope for a better future by overcoming mockery and the stigma he experiences by the show’s host, its audience, and the police.

Movie poster.
The movie poster.

When Jamal is able to answer all the questions asked during the show correctly and has only one question left before winning the $460.000 prize money, he is taken by the police and interrogated with harsh methods, because he is being accused of cheating during the show. Later it is revealed that Jamal has simply used his life-experiences, rational thinking, and mental capabilities to answer all the questions correctly.

Society obviously thinks that a man with such a background as Jamal will always be poor and lacking success. A poor man’s son will himself be poor. Jamal challenges this process of thought and proves that no matter what social status one may have, having faith in oneself, dedication, and the urge to alter destiny can change one’s life in drastic and unthinkable ways. The idea and illusion that only a person with high social status, light-skinned and with a higher education can succeed in life is challenged.

It would seem that even before a person is given a chance in life, he or she is restricted by social, religious and cultural background. It is a continuous fight against stigma while trying to prove one’s own worth and doing everything possible to stay mentally on top of one’s situation. The stigma is not only inter-cultural; it’s intra-cultural as well. Having financial wealth seems to change the way one is perceived.

This movie shows that putting accumulated life experiences to good use while having a desire to create a better future for oneself may help a person to achieve more than what someone from a high-status family may be able to achieve.

Jamal challenged the social and cultural belief that only people from higher economical standards can better themselves; something which is sadly often a common belief in human history.

The chains many people are bound by are not always to be made of iron. They can consist of social control, biased perceptions, and prejudice.

Therefore, it boils down to some basic universal principles; life is precious no matter one’s social status, and social status is not a predicator for how one’s life will turn out. The ability to alter one’s destiny is a strength every human being possesses, independent of skin color, economic status, or religious belief. □

Excerpt from the movie.
Excerpt from the movie.


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