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Like the Slumdog Millionaire

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By EMN Updated: Mar 12, 2024 12:20 am

From One FYUGP Student to Another

Danny Boyle’s Academy award winning film, “Slumdog Millionaire” brings the story of Jamal Malik, an 18 year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, who is about to experience the biggest day of his life. Jamal finds himself on Kaun Banega Crorepati, where the questions asked to him are surprisingly connected to his life experiences. Through recalling his past, Jamal triumphantly answers each question, ultimately winning the game. The movie is guided throughout by the driving theme of destiny drawing on the suspicious question – How could the protagonist ‘Jamal’ win that much money? Four possibilities are suggested (a) he is cheating;  he is brilliant; he is lucky or  it is written.

At the end, ‘It is written’ is projected as the answer which points towards some unspecified destiny that has guided Jamal to that point. This also takes to the question of the different understanding of destiny between the West and the East, where in the West the understanding of destiny is such that there is a higher power, and the choices we make in life are ultimately used by the power to bring about positive or negative consequences. While in the East, it is not necessarily connected to a higher source of power, but a more fatalistic component of the karma-samsara cycle. There is a greater tendency to see destiny as something you cannot escape. However, the idea of destiny is more poised towards the East’s view in the film.

The movie was screened as part of activity based curriculum enrichment programme by the Department of Philosophy, Dimapur Govt. College, and in the end some students shared their perspectives. Mr. Kesie Apon draws inspiration from Jamal as a young boy who finding no other way jumps straight into the big pile of poop to get an autograph in the photo of his superstar Amitabh Bachchan. This not only talks about the power of the will as the driving force to do things, but also serves a pertinent lesson on the necessity to pass through poop if that is the only way out to reach one’s goal in life. However, Jamal’s brother Salim selling off his brother’s prized possession for some coins shows how the idea of ‘value’ differ among people. Ms. Y. Toshela draws on the importance of awareness and experiences in learning like Jamal in the film, making his way through the rounds in the sets of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” That, no matter how little or small life’s experiences may seem, it can turn out to become life changing experiences. Mr. Imlitongzuk brings out the importance of one’s past experiences which largely shapes who we are, and that the choices we make in the present creates the process of our becoming. Ms. Nyuli also emphasises on the transformative power of human experiences and relationships while underscoring the importance of staying true to oneself, and the strength and courage that comes even in the most challenging circumstances, and how destiny often unfolds in unexpected ways. Ms. Kewidasi brings the different spectrums of life and how it unfolds within the interplay of events in the film, and while there is something called ‘karma’ we as agents, for whatever we do should choose our paths wisely. Mr. Jenenlo Apon remarked that there was no “Good guy” even as the ways of the world changes a person, and that nobody can be trusted, not even one’s own brother. The protagonist is even disgusted by the idea of God when he says, “if it wasn’t for Ram and Allah, we’d still have our mother.” In the midst of harsh life’s realities, we question God. It only teaches us to trust in our own capabilities rather than depending on others because they will eventually let you down one way or other. Like is so fragile that it takes very little effort to become a ‘bad guy’. However, the beauty of life is that, one little act of kindness can also turn into a beautiful story. Mr. Obed Pongen emphasises on the role of ‘fate’ in Jamal’s life, prompting a deeper inquiry into who truly dictates his destiny. The concluding phrase, ‘It is written’ suggests an ‘authorial’ hand. Was the story already ‘fated’ by the author? While this film insists that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that resilience can lead to triumph, there are other films like the “Bicycle Thieves” or “Parasite”, where the socio-economically poor characters, even after their resilience to escape poverty, become more doomed, a stark contrast to Slumdog Millionaire’s narrative. This aptly explains that a single narrative does not explain the puzzles of life.

With the introduction of the FYUG Programme in colleges in Nagaland under NEP 2020 in the year 2023, various courses like Ability Enhancement Courses, Skill Enhancement Courses, Inter/Multi disciplinary courses, value added courses have been introduced. This has enabled the students to develop interdisciplinary skills, allowing us to explore beyond the mere acquisition of theoretical knowledge.

While the courses under the FYUGP open up towards the various spectrums of experience and learning, it has also opened up the choices. As such, fellow students are cautioned to create a balance between the core and minor papers, and the other skill related multi/inter disciplinary papers by giving equal emphasis on both the components. However, there are elements of uncertainty which we hope to ease out as the semester progresses. This element of uncertainty only attests to the importance of making smart and wise choices. The film aptly portrays the consequences of making wrong choices through Salim, Jamal’s brother, who chose to become a gangster and ended up facing the unpleasant consequence.

The film gives a very strong reminder about the importance of life’s experiences through the life of Jamal, who through his life experiences provided answers to all the questions thrown at him on the sets of ‘who wants to become a millionaire.’ As such, while there are diverse perspectives on lifelong learning where individuals actively employ strategies and analogies in navigating life’s encounters, there is another perspective worth considering when approaching lifelong learning. That, there is always a larger picture in the pursuit of one’s goal in life, and each day presents various opportunities in myriad ways to learn. Each day in our life is a jigsaw piece and one should be smart and wise enough to keep collecting the jigsaw pieces presented each day without missing out on any integral piece because each piece contributes to the formation of the wider picture. This demands resilience from each individual in facing the mundane everyday life and treating each moment as a valuable piece in stitching and solving the ongoing puzzle of existence.

At the end, ‘It is written’ is projected as the correct answer, but it is also the case that something that is not written becomes the written which brings to the significance of knowing and understanding ‘the right place at the right time’ and keeping luck aside and focusing on working hard because there is no substitute to hard work.

Today, being literate is no more about knowing how to read and write but the world has a better place for those who have the ‘courage’ and the ‘will’ to learn, unlearn and relearn and which is the key to allow one’s journey.

(This article is written by the Students of Philosophy Dept., Dimapur Govt College, as an outcome of the screening of the Slumdog Millionaire, as part of activity based curriculum enrichment programme.)

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By EMN Updated: Mar 12, 2024 12:20:08 am
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