Class Division in ‘Slumdog Millionare’

Aside from the explicitly shown conflict between Salim, Jamal, and Maman, which conveys the exploitation that exists between the lower and upper-middle class in India, one of the most interesting things displayed within the film is the role other prominent characters played in class politics; specifically, how the police and the host of ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’ refused to accept that someone from the lower class was going to attain high-status. Early on, the host tells him he has no chance to get an answer correct, and prompts him to take the money. Later, he goes even further. “Win and you’ll be as rich as me … well, almost,” he says to Jamal on set, only to attempt to give him a red herring, by offering him an incorrect answer to a question he was unsure of. Then when Jamal thwarts his attempt, the host claim Jamal is a cheater, and all it took was a call to the police to have him black-bagged and tortured, without even the slightest hint of evidence.

Then, after Jamal is taken into custody, we see the role the police play. At one point, he’s tied up from the wrists, hanging from the ceiling, hooked up to a car battery to be electrocuted. Following this, Jamal is to provide a back story for every answer he got got correct. Then, after the interrogator realizes Jamal isn’t lying, he lets him walk free. Most interestingly, knowing that Latika is being held against her will by Jahvid Khan, the interrogator leaves without offering assistance. This clearly displays what it means to have power and wealth–freedom to do as you please. It’s this guilty and proven innocent message that is displayed through Jamal that represents the clear distinction between the lower- and upper-class.

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