Shaheryar Ali

Danny Boyle’s movie “Slumdog Millionaire” has taken the world by storm. Based on a novel by the Indian diplomat and author Vikas Swarup the movie tells the story of a poor slum dweller of Mumbai who is contestant on the Indian version of “Who wants to be Millionaire”. The movie was a huge success and was able to bag 8 Academy Awards.



The mood in India is nothing less than ecstasy, merging with the new obsession of Indian ruling and middle classes about “Shining India”.

For more than a decade now India is in the grip of free market economy and its lustrous attempt of building an “Indian dream”, India the great democracy, the greatest country in the world, where poorest of the poor are also happy singing and dancing on the streets. Most of it is a cruel illusion, the recent capitalization of India is very patchy and un even. Only parts of India have seen this free market boom. Most of the India has remained un touched. The Indian peasants are worse affected and the suicide rate has hit new heights Emergence of fascism has become a real threat in India, the slow degeneration of Congress party has resulted in popularization of Hindu nationalists who are out right communalist. Worse are the “New Liberals” who pro claim to be secular but subscribe to a virulent Hindutva ideology. They are rabidly anti-left consider them “pseudo secularist” but fail to see themselves who are just “Jeans clad” version of RSS.

The attitude in general Indian intelligentsia has been to hide these contradictions under carpet and glorify them. Without addressing the material base of these contradictions , a metaphysical blanket is put on the un desirable side, thus the slum become some thing of an “ideal” living place, the poor happy in their life and communalism just work of an evil anti social gunda.

Roy's poster

Roy's poster

While every one is busy partying on success of Slumdog Millionaire, we are providing an alternative view. This blog has always made sure that it gives voice to the suppressed opinion. .Arundhati Roy , the famous writer, anti globalization and anti-imperialist political activist has emerged as a conscience of India. A fierce critic of Indian ruling classes and established opinion, she spoke about the objectionable side of the movie

“People are selling India’s poverty big time both in literature and films. As they say, there is lots of money in poverty today. I am not against showing slums, but depicting them in a depoliticised manner, as has been done in the film, is quite unfortunate. Films do not show the real poor. Even if they are depicted, it’s not the true picture. The real poor are not shown in films because they are not attractive. Poverty sells but the poor do not. The film gives false hope to the poor that they too could become millionaires one day” The whole reaction can be seen here

Miss Roy wrote a wonderful critique of the movie for Dawn, the largest English newspaper of Pakistan. It was called India not shining”. She writes:

“The debate around the film has been framed – and this helps the film in its multi-million-dollar promotion drive – in absurd terms. On the one hand we have the old ‘patriots’ parroting the line that “it doesn’t show India in a Proper Light’ (by now, even they’ve been won over thanks to the Viagra of success). On the other hand, there are those who say that Slumdog is a brave film that is not scared to plum the depths of India ‘not-shining’.

Slumdog Millionaire does not puncture the myth of ‘India shining’— far from it. It just turns India ‘not-shining’ into another glitzy item in the supermarket. As a film, it has none of the panache, the politics, the texture, the humour, and the confidence that both the director and the writer bring to their other work. It really doesn’t deserve the passion and attention we are lavishing on it. It’s a silly screenplay and the dialogue was embarrassing, which surprised me because I loved The Full Monty (written by the same script writer). The stockpiling of standard, clichéd, horrors in Slumdog are, I think, meant to be a sort of version of Alice in Wonderland – ‘Jamal in Horrorland’. It doesn’t work except to trivialize what really goes on here. The villains who kidnap and maim children and sell them into brothels reminded me of Glenn Close in 101 Dalmatians”

On the political side of the movie she comments:

arundhati_roy“Politically, the film de-contextualises poverty – by making poverty an epic prop, it disassociates poverty from the poor. It makes India’s poverty a landscape, like a desert or a mountain range, an exotic beach, god-given, not man-made. So while the camera swoops around in it lovingly, the filmmakers are more picky about the creatures that
inhabit this landscape.

To have cast a poor man and a poor girl, who looked remotely as though they had grown up in the slums, battered, malnutritioned, marked by what they’d been through, wouldn’t have been attractive enough. So they cast an Indian model and a British boy. The torture scene in the cop station was insulting. The cultural confidence emanating from the obviously British ’slumdog’ completely cowed the obviously Indian cop, even though the cop was supposedly torturing the slumdog. The brown skin that two share is too thin to hide a lot of other things that push through it. It wasn’t a case of bad acting – it was a case of the PH balance being wrong. It was like watching black kids in a Chicago slum speaking in Yale accents”

The whole article can be reached here

A fellow blogger from Pakistan, Freethinker has subjected Slumdog Millionaire to very good “gender critique”. He deconstructs the “Hero Narrativity” and examines Slumdog Millionaire against these dominant discourses of Hero and Masculinity. He writes:

It’s important to identify the mythical structure in the plots of both the movies which serves to build the hero narrative. Once the hero and the struggle have been identified, both movies establish the hero as the winner through leaps of logic that are more characteristic of myth than fiction.—————- But watching Sd M critically, asking how the protagonist has efficient reading skills without tutoring, or how all the questions asked on the game are linked to the most dramatic experiences of the protagonist’s life, brings home the mythical structure that serves to complete the hero narrative”


The narratives are also concerned with the hero’s masculinity. The happy endings themselves establish a definition of the masculine as the winner who ‘takes it all’. This is why in Sd M, it is not enough that the protagonist just resolves the central conflict of the plot, that is, his separation from his beloved. In the end, through strokes of luck that sacrifice the story’s plausibility, he not only has love but also wins fame and money.—- The hero’s masculinity is established in other ways as well.———- A different but more traditional approach to this same end is seen in Sl M, in which the hero of the narrative saves the archetypal ‘damsel in distress’. The hero here represents more the anguished warrior who, as he comes of age, gets to reclaim his manhood by getting back his childhood sweetheart and becoming the winner”

This is a very advance critique rooted in firm theoretical foundation, especially his formulation of concept of “emasculation of the collective”. The whole article can be reached here.