Why I dislike Slumdog Millionaire (An Indian Perspective?)

It seems that the West, and some Indians too, have fallen hook, line and sinker for Slumdog Millionaire, while I, and some other Indians find the film to be middling. Honestly, the only reason I forced myself to sit through the entire film was because of the acclaim its been getting abroad. This article is just a repost of what I posted on Rushmore’s top 100 movies article. Note: I’m no movie critic, rather I’m quite unschooled when it comes to movies.

I’m Indian, and I don’t dislike SM, but I find it to be average. I’ve seen enough Bollywood films to be slightly jaded by the melodramatic, requiring-suspension-of-belief plot set midst the poverty and the gangsters. It simply adapts Bollywood formulas for a western audience. If you want to see a piece of true Indian genius, watch the Apu Trilogy by Satyajit Ray, the first movie especially. It easily surpasses SM in its eloquent depiction of poverty. SM has covered ground that has been covered before. Hasn’t the misery of India’s poor been talked about enough?

In SM we see Jamal being tortured by policemen and given shocks, his mother killed by Hindus in riots, him eking out an existence at a huge garbage dump living under a tent, gangsters masquerading as running an adoption center picking up vulnerable children and forcing them to beg, blinding them and selling them into prostitution, the elder brother getting into a life of crime, getting drunk on power….I find this potrayal of India rather negative and worn. Talking about poverty and India is old. I’m not “denying” the fact that India has another face to it, I’m saying that has been talked about enough.

Yeah, it sure does have some positive, fun parts like Jamal and Salim making money by being tour guides and this and that, and Jamal ends up being a chai-wallah and then he wins the game show. But is the story or even just the last bit plausible?

The film was melodramatic, and uses Bollywood formulas to tug at heart strings. Look at all these emotional, crazy twists and turns in the plot, like Jamal finding the love of his life, his brother Salim doing one last good deed, and her falling into his arms at the end of the film. The whole good things-bad things twists and turns is, atleast I feel, a sort of formula. Also, for Indians the slums and the life there is nothing new, but for the West its novel.

This is minor, but it feels rather weird, when the film suddenly shifts from Hindi to English. Hearing perfect English from Jamal and Salim feels odd. I also dislike the title. What has “slum” got to do with “dog”?

My point is, the film is ok, its average, but whatever it is, it definitely does not deserve the attention and awards it has garnered.

More – Blog with some intelligent discussion on the Indian point of view.

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