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The film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ is one of the many Indian films developed to depict real scenario of the Indian caste culture. The caste dictates that every individual is judged based on their social statuses; which also define their destinies rather than the content of their intellect. Many other Indian films, including ‘Three Idiots’ ‘Balika Vandhu,' and ‘Pavitra Rishta' have also similar themes eyeing at challenging the status quo that has been developed and entrenched deeply in the Indian society through the caste system. ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ features a slum-boy, Jamal Malik, who despite his low social status, outshines lawyers and doctors who come from very affluent families. Despite having no education either, Jamal outperforms the highly educated children of the high-class parents and downplays the role of the caste in influencing one's destiny. However, does the society, run entirely by the wealthy, who are firm believers of the caste system, accept their super performance displayed by the slum boy? Though Jamal is a hero, he remains the ‘dog of the slums’ before the rich.
The believers in the caste do not accept that a child from a poor background can outperform other kids with good education and from affluent families such as lawyers and doctors who have almost everything they needed to achieve the best in life. The beliefs and norms of the caste culture, displayed through the directors and the police inspector, undervalues the poor and regards the rich, by entrenching the belief that once poor; one cannot become rich. These perceptions are expressed in the inspector’s opinion about Jamal’s performance when he said;
“Doctors... Lawyers... never get past 60 thousand rupees. He's won 10 million”…. “What the hell can a slumdog possibly know?”
The social norms displayed in the film affect the poor negatively by making them believe that because they are poor, they have a right to remain poor because one is a street dweller, a slum dweller, or a beggar, they must remain in the same state for as long as they live. On the other hand, the caste culture motivates the rich by instilling the belief that because they are affluent, they must act affluently and outperform everyone depending on their social statuses in the society. Although this is not always the reality as Jamal approves before the national television, watched by over 60 million people, believers in the caste influence on human destiny denies this real fact.
I am aware of the Indian caste culture and the sour relationship between the poor and the rich. The film, however, brings in a new dimension to the bulk of knowledge a harboured concerning the influence of the caste culture in shaping the destiny of people. It is absurd that people cannot accept the ability of every individual to use their innate knowledge to grow intellectually and regarding wealth acquisition. It is absurd that even the director of the game, certainly an affluent person, who was responsible for asking the questions, keeping these questions safe to make sure that none leaks out, would not accept Jamal's intellect. I knew that the caste bars relationships between the poor and the rich. Denying them the chance to grow is a new dimension that this movie has taught me and which is quite sympathetic. Prem Kumar wishes that Jamal fails the final question and miss the 20 million rupees when he shouts;
“You don't? So you take the ten million and walk?”
Potentially, while the Indian caste system only affects their relationship with fellow Indians, they often extend these feelings to other people outside the Indian nation. This happens mainly with the rich Indians who often exhibit downgrading relationships with all people from all cultures, whom they consider poorer than themselves. While these happen among the Indians, the caste culture has had very limited impact on the relationship modes people from other cultures exhibit with the Indians of every social caliber (Dumont, 1980). Despite time and history disapproving the Indian caste culture, the belief can’t just fade away all the same. I think this culture is retrogressive and denies people with potential the opportunity to make the best they can out of their abilities. It denies people the providence of equal chances of prospects that life accords to every individual despite their social backgrounds.
To conclude, the Indian caste culture has been in existence for as long as the Indian society has been. The system is one of the most retrogressive in the life of humanity. The caste culture denies people the right opportunity to compete on a fair ground as seen in the case of Jamal and his competitors. The belief that a poor person cannot be wise or grow rich is undermining the potential of everyone. While certain social factors such as education levels, social statuses, and environmental conditions affect people lives and sometimes, destinies, these factors are not absolute and cannot be used to judge children’s potential.
Boyle, D. (Director). (2009). Slumdog Millionaire [Motion Picture].
Dumont, L. (1980). Homo hierarchicus: The caste system and its implications. University of Chicago Press.
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