Reviews

Slumdog Millionaire

Thad McIlroy

I saw Slumdog Millionaire on the recommendation of a good friend—the best advertising there is—and she wasn’t wrong. I was thrilled by the film, for a host of reasons. It’s ultimately a fairy tale, nearly as grim as Grimm’s, although the closing sequence will leave a boost in your heart for some time to come. But then I heard stories that people in India protested against the movie, and I began to wonder if this was another instance where we well-off North Americans fall in love with an inaccurate depiction of a less-privileged group, smugly declaring ourselves informed and sympathetic. So I sought the opinion of another friend, born in the United States but well travelled in India and well versed in the culture. He sent this reply: “I love how it turned the traditional Bollywood scheme on its head: instead of a marriage story about a rich family, Danny Boyle [director of the film] took on the often untold story of a slumdog and showed what is going on in India. The trickle-down effect leaves everyone hungry. India has tasted wealth and wants more. The underprivileged feel like they are missing the party and so the expansion of the drug trade, mob activity and sex exploitation are often an invite to the party. The zippies (Thomas Friedman’s term for the young, energetic Indian generation that have money) also are forced into a dilemma: to embrace Western culture, to keep to their own culture or to attempt a hybrid. The soundtrack matched the hybrid approach with songs by M.I.A., who blends Western beats with some Indian themes, and the music of A.R. Rahman. After seeing Slumdog, I wonder if I am missing out on the party here in the U.S., as our education system, economy and housing go to shit. I wonder if the real opportunities are in India—a place my parents ironically left long ago for better opportunities in Detroit.” If you can’t leave your cynicism at home, avoid this film. Otherwise move through it, at a pace set as much by the actors as the cinematographer and director, and wait for the transcendent closing sequence where Hollywood meets Bollywood.

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Thad McIlroy

Thad McIlroy is an electronic publishing analyst and consultant, and author of more than two hundred articles and several books on the subject. He lives in Vancouver and at thefutureofpublishing.com.


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