"So, Rama -- Do you come here often?"
May 9, 2010 4:50 AM   Subscribe

Slumdog Millionaire: Late to the party, I watched this movie for the first time (and second time, too) this past week.

Early in the movie, in the scene where Jamal and Salim run for their lives from the Hindi religious fanatics who've just orphaned the boys by killing their mother (and many others, a horrific melee), the brothers run frantically through twisting alley ways, jumping roofs, etc and etc, desperate to get away. They run down one alley and what they see in the room to their left stops them in their tracks: The Hindi god, Rama, as a child, stands there with bow and arrow in hand, his skin brilliant blue. It's a particularly powerful scene, stunning, it's hung with me, it's beautiful, Rama like a figure in a dream, or a vision. What is going on here?

It seems clear to me that the director of this movie weights this scene heavily -- you see the look on their faces as they peer into the room where Rama stands, then POV shifts to Rama as he looks at them, then back to the brothers faces, and then an even longer look at Rama, closed right in on his face, like a vision from some apocalypse, and it is of course the brothers apocalypse. Rama stands there looking the boys dead in the eyes.

While the movie does stretch plausibility here and there, suspension of disbelief as in most other films, in no other scene or sequence does the movie veer off out of real experience; this kid is supposed to be real as rain, standing there in that room, locking eyes with the boys.

My question: Was this kid dressed for a religious holiday -- it would stand to reason that the horrific attack could have come about on a day special to the Hindu religious adherents who are attacking those of a different religion ie Muslims. So was this kid maybe decked out for that reason, sortof like some Christian kid might dress as Jesus on Easter? *

I'm just trying to make sense of this piece of the movie, probably it's perfectly clear to you all, and I'll be the fool (yet again -- sigh) who just doesn't 'get it' for whatever reason. It's a cool scene, it seems important to the story, it's the one piece I've wondered about since seeing it; the rest of the movie, the story was/is clear.

* Surely there aren't young Indian boys wandering around every day dressed as Rama, their skin painted blue, carting small bow and arrows, just waiting for someone to come running past so they can lock eyes with them...
posted by dancestoblue to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
fwiw i was wondering the same thing! is it supposed to be a vision, or an actual kid dressed up as rama?
posted by messiahwannabe at 5:00 AM on May 9, 2010

Hindi is a language spoken across much of India. Hindu is a religion practised across much of South Asia. In Hindu iconography, Rama is usually shown to be blue, but I'm not aware of any Hindu holidays where parents paint their children blue to look like him.
posted by embrangled at 5:25 AM on May 9, 2010

Okay, strictly speaking it's Hinduism that's practised across much of South Asia... But yeah, I think you're overthinking this scene. It's either a vision, or an intentional ambiguity that's meant to leave you wondering. Painting children blue isn't common practice in India. The closest I'm aware of is Holi, when people throw coloured dye, but no-one ends up looking like Rama - they look multicoloured and a bit bedraggled, like this.
posted by embrangled at 5:46 AM on May 9, 2010

The kids mother being killed by a mob isn't really spoilerish. It's like complaining about someone mentioning the killing of his aunt and uncle. They're events that happen nearly immediately at the beginning of the film to setup the rest of the movie.

With that said, I don't think it was a vision so much as a director taking artistic license.
posted by Atreides at 6:26 AM on May 9, 2010

First of all, apparently this precise scene caused a huge uproar in the worldwide Hindu community. Many felt that the depiction of Rama associated with senseless massacre was inappropriate and offensive (not to mention the left-handed benediction the god/child gives to the boys). I believe the scene was not meant to be offensive, that it was a creative encapsulation used by the director in line with many of the other fantastic elements of the film.

Then again, it could also be justified by the siblings' low position and Muslim upbringing. Two young slumdogs don't necessarily possess the ability to make sense of the chaotic violence they witness (against their mother, no less); the vision is their simplistic way of understanding why their mother died.
posted by carsonb at 6:47 AM on May 9, 2010

Also, I feel it's a liberty justified in the taking, since what you see in the movie is the depiction of a recollection as Jamal gives his 'alibi' to the police, not the actual events. His youthful understanding has carried over into adulthood (this happens to me ALL THE TIME, and it's sort of frustrating) and it makes total sense within his own reckoning to say that 'Lord Rama appeared before us' instead of something like 'Hindus killed my mother'.
posted by carsonb at 6:54 AM on May 9, 2010

[moved the more to inside, carry on]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:01 AM on May 9, 2010

This certainly doesn't clear anything up, but in the interest of multiple viewpoints I'll mention reading somewhere disreputable on the web someone's suggestion that the Rama child could have been brought by the Hindu marauders, as a sort of mascot.
posted by carsonb at 7:02 AM on May 9, 2010

the Rama child could have been brought by the Hindu marauders, as a sort of mascot.

This was precisely my take on the scene when I saw the movie.
posted by sour cream at 7:16 AM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

The 'mascot' scenario is also what I thought was going on, since it creates an enormous juxtaposition between the Rama kid and Jamal & Salim. That's also why I thought they briefly gave the Rama kid's POV.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 7:31 AM on May 9, 2010

Hmmm. I took it as a divine appearance, kind of in line with the "destiny" theme of the movie. All the stuff that is happening, good and bad, is a web of events directed by fate (and, more meta) the scriptwriter and director. Kind of a "things happen for a reason, but that reason will always be mysterious to you, something strange half-glimpsed through a crack in a wall."
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:33 AM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, I took the scene as entirely symbolic. Not a vision, so much as the director using visual shorthand.

If the viewer was meant to know young Rama's backstory, it would have been shown. Instead we are given him as is. He is there because Jamal and Salim are seeing the end of their world and that draws a pretty serious blur across the distinction between reality and unreality.

I imagined that it was just a boy, perhaps a boy with a toy bow and arrow, but that Jamal and Salim saw him as Rama.
posted by 256 at 8:37 AM on May 9, 2010

Great answers, I'm glad I asked, it really caught me.

I'd give twenty dollars to have an edit capability with the whole Hindu/Hindi foolishness. Can I say that it happened because I was posting after awakening early thus caught in confusion of an early Sunday? Yeah, that's what it was...
posted by dancestoblue at 8:43 AM on May 9, 2010

If you read the book, there's a similar vision during the equivalent event in the book if I'm not mistaken.
posted by QUHZK at 2:10 PM on May 9, 2010

The interwebs are full of people asking this question. The general consensus seems to be it's either a vision, or a real boy dressed as Rama. In the context of the story - the hero sees the boy and is able to later answer a question about what Rama is usually depicted holding - it makes the most narrative sense that he is a real boy in costume.

This discussion of the question says: "In India it is common for kids to dress up as a god during festive seasons and such."
posted by CunningLinguist at 11:42 AM on May 11, 2010

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