Narrative Conventions in Slumdog Millionaire Analysis

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Describe narrative features in media texts: Julia Strachan “Slumdog Millionaire”, directed by Danny Boyle, is a complex, fast pace film. We are taken on a journey through India as Jamal Malik tells us his life story to prove his innocence. Jamal grows up in the Slums of India and with his brother Salim by his side the learn how to survive on their own. Through different life events Jamal progressively learns the answers to the ‘who wants to be a millionaire’ questions. This film breaks the boundaries of stereotypes and has a great impact on the audience.

Danny Boyle is an English film director; he won the academy award for best director for Slumdog Millionaire and directed other films such as 28 days later and 127 hours. Three key techniques Danny Boyle uses effectively is Setting, Character Development and Internal conflict. The convention of Setting used in Slumdog Millionaire is important to the narrative as it helps the audience to establish that the film is set in India. In India you have extremes in close proximity helping to further exaggerate the contrasts between social groups.

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It also helps us learn more about the characters personality and background and gives a clear indication of the stereo types used. We are first introduced to the setting of the ‘slums’ in chapter 3: Slumdog title sequence. Ariel shots are shown of the slums, jumping from close birds eye view of part of the slum, to further and further away each time it jumps, till we have a full view of the ever stretching poverty. This contrasts to the setting of the developed high rises of Mumbai nearing the end of the film, chapter 18: Meets Salim who is working for Javed on a construction building.

There is an establishing shot of Salim and Jamal look out over the newly formed city, where their slums used to be when they were kids. The setting of the slums influences the audiences relationship with Jamal, making them more sympathetic because we are shown the hardships and struggle poverty has inflicted upon him. We feel a lot more sympathy for Jamal because he has come from a hard life rather than if he had grown up in a rich, carefree way. The contrasting setting at the end of the film: The city of Mumbai.

Foreshadows Jamal’s development as a character, showing us that he has grown just as the city has. Jamal stands tall and strong like one of the skyscrapers built over the old decrepit sheds of the slums, which symbolizes his past. The transformed setting of slums to city also helps move the story forward and show the progression of time. It adds a theme of development and progression to the wider film. When shown footage of the real life slums of India we can see that Danny Boyle has conveyed the slums in a very realistic way, this is to make the characters more believable and to add realism to the story.

Boyle made sure to shoot the film in the real slums as this contrasts to the Bollywood stereotype of everything being neat and tidy and also gives a sense of realism. Boyle also used the setting to take the audience outside there comfort zone and give them something they don’t see everyday. Although Boyle has increased the amount of colour that is usually seen in the Slums, this is done to create eye-catching interest in the setting and give a focal point to the viewer eg.

We can recognize Latika because she is always wearing yellow this is because in the Hindu culture if you dream yellow, it is supposed to represent struggle before achievement and Latika is Jamal’s dream. Another convention used that is important to the narrative is character development. Character development helps to audience to further relate the to characters or add a deeper meaning to Propp’s stock characters. We are effectively shown character development through Salim Malik (Jamal’s older brother). Salim is portrayed as a street smart, selfish character whom does what it takes to stay alive.

At he start of the film he is portrayed as the dominant brother, protecting and providing for them both. Propp would label his character the antagonist, which means he sabotages the protagonist (Jamal) so the protagonist may not reach their goal. In chapter 16: Salim leaves with Latika. We see Salim barge into the room where Jamal and Latika lie innocently talking. There is a high angle shot making Latika and Jamal look weak and vulnerable. This cuts to a low angle of Salim making him seem strong and powerful. Salim continues to say “I am the elder, I am the boss, for once you do as I say. This shows that Salim believes he is the dominant brother and Jamal must obey him. The scene concludes with Salim raping Latika after Jamal is forced away at gunpoint by his own brother. This is where we see the darker side of Salim’s character and the contrast between the innocence of Jamal and the narrow mind of Salim. This impacts on the audience because it is the first time that there has been serious conflict between the brothers. It also aids the audience into categorizing Salim into the villain character at this point in the film.

At the end of the film Salim makes the ultimate sacrifice; his life. This emphasizes the dramatic change that has occurred in Salim’s character. Salim transforms from being the antagonist to being the enabler, aiding Jamal in finding Latika. In chapter 23: Salim helps Latika escape. We see Latika watching the news about Jamal being on his final question, with tears rushing down her cheeks. Salim enters. We see a high angle of Latika reiterating her vulnerability this shadows chapter 16 (when Latika was in the same position). This time instead of there being a low angle of Salim.

All we see is Salim’s hand reach out to her, giving her the keys to freedom and pulling her up to an equal level of respect and liberty. There is a close up of Salim as he accepts the gravity of his decisions. By freeing Latika from the gangster Javed, he will be killed for disobeying. Salim’s act helps enable the resolution of the narrative and moves the story forward. It adds complexity to the story and helps to emphasize the theme of love compels us to make sacrifices. His sacrifice causes the audience to feel sympathy for him even though he was a ‘villain’.

Through out the film Salim is shown to be the antagonist, always trying to stop Jamal from reaching his goal (Latika). We know that in real life people are not always completely bad and that deep down inside morality will prevail. We are shown the drastic changed in Salim character to show that change can occur and that Salim realized how much he affected Jamal’s life. Salim got wanted he wanted out of life, to be rich and be a gangster. After he had achieved this he realized that it wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be and that love is more important.

When Salim made the ultimate sacrifice, it shows that he would give up everything for his brother and this is true love. This emphasizes the theme of love compels us to make sacrifices. The technique of character development is used to make the characters more realistic and help the narrative develop also. Salim’s ultimate sacrifice shocks the audience. The contrast between: his actions when he was young which were all for his benefit and his actions now which are souly for Jamal helps to emphasize the development of his character.

After the sacrifice the audience has more respect for Salim because he enabled the happily ever after. Danny Boyle decided to use the Sacrifice to heighten the climax of the movie. It adds greater impact that Salim must make the ultimate sacrifice contrasting to Jamal who wins his ultimate outcome. In the Hindu religion they believe in karma, the law of cause and effect by which each individual creates his own destiny by his thoughts, words and deeds. Salim believed that his sacrifice for Latika and Jamal’s relationship would benefit him in his next life.

This helps the audience to understand his actions. The character development of Salim breaks the boundaries of the typical Bollywood film. An average Bollywood film would have an antagonist, which would be portrayed as completely bad, this contrasts with Boyle’s choice to develop his characters who jump between being good and bad. This is because Boyle wanted create more depth and realism to his characters. The last convention Danny Boyle used that is important to the narrative is Internal conflict. Internal conflict occurs when a character is confronted with a problem that presents difficult choices.

The character must make a decision one way or another. Internal conflict gives a deeper meaning to a character illustrating the morality and thought process of the character. Internal conflict gives the audience a indication of right and wrong, through the character’s eyes. One way in which Boyle represents internal conflict is in chapter 9: Blinding the children. Maman notices that Salim is a strong street-smart kid and gives him a chance to be ‘a real man, a gunfighter’. Salim is subjected to the blinding of one of the kids at the orphanage. This is because people eel more pity for the blind especially children and therefore they will make more money begging. When Maman asks Salim to go fetch Jamal next. There is a close up of Salim’s face, wide eyed and frozen. He knows that Maman will blind Jamal as he did to the previous child. The close up illustrates the internal conflict going through Jamal’s mind. Should he lead his brother to be blind and become a ‘real man, a gunfighter’ or should he try to escape before Maman can grab them. At the end of the scene we see Salim and Jamal escape from Maman and his henchmen and therefore Salim decided to true to his brother.

This shocks the audience because in the past we have seen Salim make the wrong decision eg. Chapter 4: Salim sells autograph. So this internal conflict puts the audience on the edge of the seat wondering what Salim will do. The fact that Salim hesitates on what to do emphasizes his internal conflict and the fact that he struggles to choose between his morality and the benefits. This further adds to his character in the movie and adds more depth and shock to the contrast when he chooses to catch Latika at the train station and take her away Jamal in chapter 21.

Another way in which Boyle illustrates internal conflict is in Chapter 18: Jamal meets Salim. Jamal and Salim have not talked for years after Salim raped Latika and left. Years later Jamal called Salim and it is implied that they arranged to meet up. As Jamal is walking towards Salim on the construction site of a high-rise building, there is a close up of Jamal’s stern looking face. Then we are shown a clip of Jamal tackling Salim in rage of the edge of the tall building. It then flashes back to Jamal face as he walks towards Salim with a clenched jaw and punches him in the face.

The close up before and after the alternate reality shows us that this is what Jamal is thinking and what he wants to do. Boyle has illustrated Jamals anger at Salim that has built up over all these years. The fact the Jamal tackles Salim and himself off the building shows Jamal’s rage almost overcomes his will to live. This shows internal conflict because Jamal is deciding if he is to act on all his rage or whether to forgive. Jamal decides to transform his internal conflict into external conflict and punches in the face.

The audience knows and is shown that the gravity of his anger is much more than this but Jamal’s morals have outweighed his anger. This causes the audience to further support Jamal as a character because he is being the bigger person. Internal conflict is used in both scenes to show more depth into the characters thought process and if they can decipher right from wrong. Both Salim and Jamal had to deal with a problem and decide how to act one way or another. The action in which the choose gives us a insight into what the characters goals and morals are.

Each of the internal conflicts I have given shocks the audience and demonstrates a different side to the character. When we shown Salim’s internal conflict the adds to how he develops as a character and that adds to the film how the theme of “it is written” is shown decided on the characters decisions and morals. Boyle uses the internal conflict in the film to help break out of the Propp’s stock characters and stereo types. From the beginning we view Salim as the villain; locking Jamal in toilet and selling his autograph.

The internal conflict shows the Salim is not all bad and that he can break his stereotype and become a subhero. Whilst from the very beginning Boyle makes a believe that Jamal is the perfect hero, so kind and caring that he is almost inhuman. Through the internal conflict we are shown the even the Boyle has made us perceive Jamal as the perfect hero, he also breaks through his stock character. Jamal has feelings more than just love and kindness. Boyle illustrates Jamal’s deeper side. This causes the audience to feel more connected with both characters as they are illustrated as more of an average person, with flaws and morals.

The internal conflict in ‘Slumdog millionaire’ is demonstrated and used in a similar way to that of ‘Titanic’ directed by James Cameron. There is similar internal conflict in Titanic when the protagonist Jack has to decide whether to let his one true love, Rose, live and himself die or if he risks them both dying for a chance to save his own life. This is very similar to Salim’s choice to let Latika be free and sacrifice himself or for them both to spend the rest of their lives running from Javed’s men.

Internal conflicts in both films are emphasized by close up’s to help the audience focus on facial expressions. To conclude Danny Boyle has used an array of narrative conventions to effectively impact on the audience and add to the wider film. The three that I think were used superbly were Setting, Character Development and Internal Conflict. Setting was strongly used to strength our relationship between the characters by understanding more about there background and how it has shaped them. Character Development was used to show us how people can change and that love compels us to make sacrifices.

Internal conflict was used to give depth to a character and help the audience to see the thought process behind their difficult choices. In my opinion Danny Boyle has created a well-rounded film with each narrative convention complimenting each other to create a deeper meaning. The setting takes me out of my comfort zone but also interests me in how Jamal manages to break his stereo type of being a slum dog and this is all reiterated by the narrative conventions I have talked about. I believe that Danny Boyle has put thought into each convention and the end result leaves the audience with a lot to think about.

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Narrative Conventions in Slumdog Millionaire Analysis. (2016, Oct 07). Retrieved from

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