Slumdog Millionaire was a worldwide movie sensation as it engages with a wide range of social issues and universal desires. An important and interesting character in the film is Salim Malik, brother to the main character, Jamal. Salim is heavily contrasted to his brother and becomes a main antagonist in the narrative. Director Danny Boyle uses multiple visual and verbal techniques to reveal Salim’s violent and greedy tendencies and to reveal to the audience that money and power do not buy happiness.
Boyle, develops Salim’s violent nature early in the film. One of the first examples is Salim’s violent lashing out at Latika when she laughs at his singing. The characters actions appear over the top and unnecessary and reveal his reactive personality. Boyle also uses music to emphasize Salim’s dark nature. The track Gangsta Blues is played after Salim’s murder of Maman.
The track is in the style of an American gangster rap with dark tones and deep repetitive deeps creating a tense and unnerving mood for the audience. Salim never appears to show remorse for his violent actions. He firstly murders Maman then rapes Latika and as the plot develops becomes a paid killer for Javed. The dialogue “I killed Maman and I will kill you too” shows his lack of remorse and his willingness to repeat his violent actions. It is this lack of remorse and Salim’s embracing of violence that makes him so interesting to watch in this film as we see the childhood offences develop into adult cruelty.
Salim is also shown to be greedy as well as violent. In both the exposition and the dénouement there is a point of view shot of Salim filling a bathtub full of money. Boyle makes it clear to the audience through this camera work and the character’s actions that money and power are both incredibly important to Salim. As a child Salim is seen both selling his brother’s prized possession for a few coins and is also seen stealing shoes from a holy site and selling them on to others in the street.
These actions show us that money is more important to Salim then either his brother’s feelings or those feelings of the people he stole from. It shows his disconnection with his community and disregard for the laws of the land. It also shows us that even from a young age Salim was not afraid of breaking the law to get what he wants.
Salim made his life about generating wealth and power the easy way, through violence. His dialogue “and I am at the center of the center” emphasized his pride at having reached a powerful position in the expanding Mumbai crime scene, even though the audience and Salim’s brother Jamal, know that he made it at the expense of others. Salim’s fearless pursuit of money and power make him interesting as his actions help us to understand why people choose illegal and violent lifestyles and the toll their actions can have on others.
Salim’s character is also used to contrast Jamal’s life choices. The two bothers choose very different life paths that result in very different outcomes. Salim and Jamal shared a violent and transient childhood.
They relied on each other for survival as outsiders. As they grow, Salim’s reaction to their childhood and their isolation from the community is to behave in a violent and disrespectful way. He shows no concern for others and even abandons his brother when his brother tries to stop the rape of Latika by Salim. Jamal responds differently to his childhood. He attempts to educate himself, learning English from tourists in Agra and getting a job in an international call centre. Jamal pursues love, not wealth and power and it is Jamal’s quest that forms the main narrative.
Danny Boyle uses difference in costume and lighting to emphasize the boy’s differences in personality. Salim is often filmed in low lighting with shadows cast across his face to emphaise his dark nature. In contrast to Jamal who is generally shown in high key natural lighting, representing positive emotions like hope and love.
A clear example of this is when Salim and Jamal are both at the train station searching for Latika. Jamal is filmed standing on a platform with natural sunshine across his face whereas Salim is in the shadows of the building. As an adult Salim is shown to be wearing expensive clothing, such as reflective sunglasses and gold jewellery. Boyle chooses to dress Salim in this symbolic way to emphasize that it is important to Salim that people know he has money and therefore power. Whereas Jamal is always dressed simply but is still well presented.
He wears a plain well-worn business shirt and a watch. It shows the audience that he takes pride in his presentation but is not attempting to be something he is not and that his priority is not in looking good or pretending at been powerful. In the end Salim is killed whereas Jamal completes his destiny in finding and loving Latika. The bothers differences are used to highlight Boyle message that it is not money and power but love that will bring happiness.
Slumdog Millionaire is an emotive and captivating film that reveals the fictional lives of three Indian slum children. Boyle cleverly conveyed ideas through his layered use of visual and verbal filmic techniques to create an interesting and important character of Salim. Salim’s character teaches us about the prejudices of the powerful and the violence of crime. Through these techniques Boyle conveys to the audience that we all have choices in life to make but those decisions should be based on love, loyalty and family rather than money and power to find true happiness.
In what ways does the Bollywood movie industry influence this film?
The influence of the Bollywood movie industry is evident in the movie in quite a number of ways, but the most obvious is in the final scenes of the film when Latika and Jamal perform a flamboyant and colorful song and dance scene, which is a signature of Bollywood. The scene involves many characters and is expertly choreographed, adding another layer of fantasy to the movie. The film is also a story of romance between two unlikely characters who face insurmountable odds to have a romantic relationship that seems impossible, yet Bollywood-style the odds are beaten and the young lovers "live happily ever after". The intertwining of a relatively gritty story and circumstances with music and a fairy tale ending bears the classic hallmarks of Bollywood and the director, Danny Boyle, has stated he was influenced by, and wanted to draw inspiration from, Bollywood.
There are several sets of circumstances in the movie that seem literally unbelievable. What are some of these, and do they detract from the overall believability and enjoyment of the movie?
Jamal was orphaned as a child and grew up on the streets of the slums of Calcutta, getting by hustling for money, and children who grow up like this have little access to education. He would most likely have been preyed upon by gangsters far sooner and his fate would not have been positive. It is unlikely that in real life he could have ended up on a game show, especially not a game show with the popularity of "Millionaire." As a street kid he might not be able to read and write and so the initial test to get on the show would have been impossible for someone of his education level. Later, after he is questioned by the police, they show a benevolence that is quite hard to believe, returning him to the television studio and allowing him to finish the game. Finally, the fact that Latika was able to escape the warehouse and her captors, and meet him at the railway station is also stretching credibility a little bit as when discovered missing she would most certainly have been killed as a punishment. However, these factors do not really detract from the film because it is in essence a beautiful love story, and we want the two characters to win in the end and live happily ever after. Winning a gameshow is a fantasy for anyone at all, whatever their circumstances, and so it is not such a suspension of disbelief for the audience to accept the fact that he is on the show, however unlikely it is given his circumstances.
As they get older, Jamal and his brother change, and grow apart. Why do you think Jamal retains his good character when his brother does not?
Jamal seems to be a dreamer. He is an essentially nice kid protected from the worst parts of living in a slum by his older brother. This is not as pressurized as being the older brother with a kid brother to protect. Jamal's brother saw association with a gangster as easy money, and money was what they needed in order to improve their lot in life. We are said to be who we spend time with and so being in such close proximity to a gangster who is basically a killer and an abuser of young people obviously rubs off, and he becomes much more like his new boss. He even sacrifices his brother in order to curry favor with his boss. Later in the movie, when he is called upon to literally decide between his brother and his cohorts, he chooses his brother, and does the right thing. He is clearly a more easily influenced young man than Jamal but he also had a lot more pressure on him to get money and be the adult at such a young age; without an adult guiding him he fell under the influence of the only adult offering him any leadership or example, however bad it be.