Slumdog Millionaire: Will the Real Hero Please Stand Up?!
Updated: November 1, 2009
Wow! Wow! WOW!
That’s all I could say when I saw Slumdog Millionaire and I’m still saying it now.
For anyone whose seen the movie, you’ll know why I’ve turned monosyllabic.
Every single thing about Slumdog Millionaire is fantastic. There are so many layers of the storyline I’ve spent for reliving every delicious moment.
For me, the movie’s extra meaningful because of the theme of my third book, The Quest to Have it All: Finding the path to purpose and peace and this year’s theme of the same for my radio show, The Quest to Have it All.
Slumdog Millionaire is one heck of a case study in heroes!
It occurs to me most think of a hero as an intrinsically good person who goes on a journey quest…meets a bunch of seemingly insurmountable obstacles…almost fails (several times)…emerges the victor and…voila’…a hero is born.
Born in the Dharavi slums (India), Jamal’s mother is murdered during the 1993 anti-Muslim attacks, leaving he and his older brother, Salim Malik, orphaned and living on the streets.
Thus starts the hero’s journey.
Though the exact ages of the brothers is never revealed it could easily be assumed they are in the eight to ten year old range.
How to survive on the streets at such young ages is a double entendre when you think about it. Certainly survival means finding ways to take care of basic needs…food, water, clothing…sustaining physical life.
But there’s another kind of survival.
Survival of the spirit.
What kind of survival skills does it take to keep your soul intact when you’re an eight or nine year old child whose every waking moment is spent trying to stay alive.
And…you’re a child…what or who preys on you in the moments you’re not awake?
There are tons of places you can scrounge for food and water. But where can anyone…especially a child…scrounge for safety and love?
Slumdog Millionaire opens with eighteen year old Jamal being tortured and interrogated by a police inspector in Mumbai, India (where Jamal lives).
He is accused of cheating as a contestant on the Indian version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”.
Through a series of childhood flashbacks we see how he came to know the answer to all but two questions. Through those childhood flashbacks of beatings, betrayals, murder, kidnapping, prostitution and rape Jamal never falters in keeping faith, hope and love alive in his spirit.
Audiences love him.
I love him.
A hero from the start, eight year old Jamal comes to the rescue of another village orphan, Latika. One night, Jamal and Salim have found a place to sleep and stay relatively dry during a raging storm. They, both, see a little girl staring at them from outside in the deluge.
Though you can’t see her face, the effect of her, so tiny, standing perfectly still and completely silent while battered by wind and stinging rain is heartbreaking.
Of course Jamal wants to offer her shelter. Salim refuses. Since Salim is the older brother and self-proclaimed boss, Jamal struggles between defiance of his sibling and doing what he knows to be right.
Unable to do anything but what’s right, he waits until he thinks his brother is asleep and brings Latika inside.
No great hero’s journey is complete without the presence of great romance. Slumdog Millionaire is no exception.
As the story unfolds, Jamal comes to know Latika as his destiny. No matter how many times he looses her or how, he finds the way back. Even when she’s contemptuous of his declared love and throws him away, the next step Jamal takes is the one he hopes will bring him back to “her”.
The usual hero/great love of the ages story usually involves a chiseled, muscle bound hot guy and super model in distress. At the pinnacle of the saga, the music swells and said hot hero sweeps said super model into his arms, plants a big one on her and the credits roll.
Uh, uh. Not this time.
Weeelll…mostly “uh, uh not this time”…the woman who plays the adult Latika is, in fact, a super model.
Earlier in the movie, Jamal’s own brother Salim cuts Latika’s face when she tries to run away from the crime lord who has purchased and enslaved her.
When Jamal…with no discernable chiseling or muscles…gets to the pinnacle of Slumdog Millionaire he does, indeed, take Latika in his arms…and very gently kisses… the disfiguring scar running the length of her beautiful face. Then he stares into her eyes and does not kiss her on the lips until she asks him to do so.
For those incredibly tender moments, some of the most romantic moments I’ve ever seen, anybody that had anything whatsoever to do with the making of Slumdog Millionaire is a hero!
How many of us lose hope over less?
How many of us lose faith over more?
How many of us speak, act or think without the presence of love over nothing?
The point is, no matter how large or small the obstacle…how long the journey…the hero inside all of us can keep the faith, hope and love alive in our spirit (The Hero’s Journey).
Because Jamal was able to do so he is the protagonist’s protagonist. The quintessential hero. He is an intrinsic and undeniable great seed.
But what about someone who’s intrinsically and undeniably a bad seed?
Is it possible to have bestowed upon them the title of hero?
Find out in “Will the REAL Hero Please Stand Up”