Slumdog Millionaire has been a surprise hit and has won many films awards and is nominated for many more. If you were like me you have heard about the movie but you didn’t know what it was all about and if it would be any good. A movie about the slums of India doesn’t sound too good but it really is.
Slumdog Millionaire is about a guy from the slums of India who makes it big on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in India. The police think he must have cheated to make it so far and the movie goes in flashbacks of him explaining how he knew the answers to question and him being in the local jail being questioned by the police.
Some of the complaints this film has had are that it puts India in bad light. I think that it gives a unique view of India that is not seen anywhere else. It does show you the dark side of India including the slums. It also shows the economic expansion the big new buildings springing up. It even shows some surprises as well such as when we see inside a call center we see them teaching people about the places they will be calling and the pictures of the places so that when people call they can talk to the people like they are from there. I had heard they do things like that and have local T.V. and news showing so they can know what is happening in the area that they are calling so they can talk to the people like they are local that is something that you really don’t see shown in any other movie about India and that India probably actually does not want the world to see.
I have not been to India myself but have seen many documentaries on India and have also known many people who are from India and from what I understand both from what I have seen in documentaries and been told Slumdog Millionaire is if anything far gentler then the reality. Yes there is expansion and growth in India as Slumdog Millionaire shows a little of but there is also abject poverty. If anything the situation that many in India face is worse, I saw a mother angry over the police returning her child after years as a sweatshop slave because she could not feed the children she had left as it was. The conditions of the child slaves is worse then what most of the children in the movie experience and intentional mutilation is not uncommon as is shown in Slumdog Millionaire.
One thing that Slumdog Millionaire does is that it makes the underbelly of India easier to stomach for Americans. Most Americans could not stomach a hour documentary on India or other impoverished nations if it covers slavery, the sex trade, etc. Yet an American is just barely able to make it through seeing only a minor lesser version of these same evils in Slumdog Millionaire in large part because of the happy ending.
Some Indian critics argue that it is not an Indian movie. I would agree it does not fall in line with standard Bollywood faire. The one thing that it has in common is the general rags to riches young man finally gets his childhood sweetheart is common to Bollywood but it is common to stories worldwide. The movie is set in India and uses Indian music and culture to tell its story but it tells the story in an American way. The camera style is very American, and you will not see any large musical numbers in this movie. While I agree with Indian critics who pan it as not being an Indian film I don’t see why that matters, it might not be an Indian film but it is a film about India.I think that this movie does a great job at getting through to Americans at the reality of the world and while it may not truly show us the worlds darkest side Americans are not ready to see the reality of the world but it helps us to be prepared to see it. The movie may not be original in story but its greatest value is what it is able to show us about not only India but in turn about ourselves.