Slumdog Millionaire Essay Destiny Public Events

DB here:

In graduate school a professor of mine claimed that one benefit of studying film history was that “you’re never surprised by anything that comes along.”

This isn’t something to tell young people. They want to be surprised, preferably every few hours. So I rejected the professor’s comment, and I still think it’s not a solid rationale for studying film history. But I can’t deny that doing historical research does give you a twinge of déjà vu.

For instance, the film industry’s current efforts to sell Imax and 3-D irresistibly remind me of what happened in the early 1950s, when Hollywood went over to widescreen (Cinerama, CinemaScope, and the like), stereophonic sound, and for a little while 3-D. Then the need was to yank people away from their TV sets and barbecue pits. Now people need to be wooed from videogames and the Net. But the logic is the same: Offer people something they can’t get at home. It’s 1953 once more.

So historians can’t resist the “Here we go again” reflex. But they shouldn’t turn that into a languid “I’ve seen it all before.” Because we can genuinely be surprised. Occasionally, there are really innovative movies that, no matter how much they owe to tradition, constitute milestones. In my view, Kiarostami’s Through the Olive Trees, Hou’s City of Sadness, Wong’s Chungking Express, Tarr’s Satantango, and Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction are among the 1990s examples of strong and original works.

More often, the films we see draw on film history in milder ways than these milestones. But this doesn’t mean that these movies lack significance or impact. We can be agreeably surprised by the ways in which a filmmaker energizes long-standing cinematic traditions by blending them unexpectedly, tweaking them in fresh ways, setting them loose on new material. And the more you know of those traditions and conventions, the more you can appreciate how they’re modified. Admiring genius shouldn’t keep us from savoring ingenuity.

Which brings me to Slumdog Millionaire. I happen to like the film reasonably well. Part of my enjoyment is based on seeing how forms and formulas drawn from across film history have an enduring appeal. Many people whose judgments I respect hate the movie, and they would probably call what follows an ode to clichés. But I mean this set of notes in the same spirit as my comments on The Dark Knight (which I don’t admire). Even if you disagree with my predilections, you may find something intriguing in Slumdog’s ties to tradition. These ties also suggest why the movie is so ingratiating to so many.

Warning: What follows contains plot spoilers, revelatory images, and atrocious puns.

Slumdog and pony show

Adaptation is still king. Almost as soon as movies started telling stories, they were borrowing from other media. Many of this year’s Oscar candidates are based on plays, novels, and graphic novels. Slumdog is a redo of Vikas Swarup’s 2005 novel Q & A. The book provides the basic situation of a poor youth implausibly triumphing on a version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? The novel also lays down the film’s overall architecture: in the present, the hero narrates his past, tying each flashback to a round of the game and a relevant question. In the novel, the video replays are described, but of course they’re shown in the film.

There are many disparities between novel and movie, but for now I simply note two. First, Swarup’s book has several minor threads of action, but the film concentrates on Jamal’s love of Latika. (The screenwriter Simon Beaufoy has melded two female characters into one.) Correspondingly, the book introduces a romance plot comparatively late, whereas the film initiates Jamal’s love of Latika in their childhoods. Such choices give the film a simpler through-line. Second, whereas Q & A skips back and forth through Jamal’s life, keying story events to the quiz questions, the film’s flashbacks follow the chronology strictly. This is a good example of how screenwriters are inclined to adjust the plasticity of literary time to the fact that, at least in theatrical screenings, audiences can’t stop and go back to check story order. Clarity of chronology is the default in classical film storytelling.

Then there’s the double plotline. The streamlining of Swarup’s novel points up one convention of Hollywood narrative cinema. The assortment of characters and the twists in the original novel are squeezed down to the two sorts of plotlines we find in most studio films: a line of action involving heterosexual romance and a second line of action, sometimes another romance but just as often involving work. The common work/ family tension of contemporary film plotting is to some extent built into the Hollywood system.

Beaufoy has sharpened the plot by giving Jamal a basic goal: to unite with Latika. The quiz episodes form a means to that end: the boy goes on the show because he knows she watches it. If told in chronological order, the quiz-show stretches would have come late in the film and become a fairly monotonous pendant to the romance plot. One of the many effects of the flashback arrangement is to give the subsidiary goal more prominence, creating a parallel track for the entire film to move along and arousing anomalous suspense. (We know the outcome, but how do we get there?)

Q & A. Swarup’s novel begins: “I have been arrested. For winning a quiz show.”

We have to ask: What could make such a thing happen? Soon the police and the show’s producers are wondering something more specific. How could Ram, an ignorant waiter, have gotten the answers right without cheating?

Noël Carroll proposes that narratives engage us by positing questions, either explicitly or implicitly. Stories in popular media, he suggests, induce the reader to ask rather clear-cut ones, and these will get reframed, deferred, toyed with, and in the short or long run answered.

Slumdog accepts this convention, presenting a cascade of questions to link its scenes and enhance our engagement. Will Jamel and Salim get Bachchan’s autograph? Will they survive the anti-Muslim riot? Will they escape the fate of the other captive beggar children? And so on.

More originally, the film cleverly melds the question-based appeal of narrative with the protocols of the game show, so that we are confronted with a multiple-choicer at the very start. (As in narrative itself, the truth comes at the end.) The principal question will be answered in the denouement, in a comparably impersonal register.

Flashbacks are also a long-standing storytelling device, as I was saying here last week. A canonical situation is the police interrogation that frames the past events, as in Mildred Pierce, The Usual Suspects, and Bertolucci’s The Grim Reaper. This narrating frame is comfortable and easy to assimilate, and it guides us in following the time shifts.

But 1960s cinema gave flashbacks a new force. From Hiroshima mon amour (1958) onward, brief and enigmatic flashbacks, interrupting the ongoing present-tense action, became common ways to engage the audience. Such is the case with the glimpse of Latika at the station that pops up during the questioning of Jamal, rendered as almost an eyeline match.

At this point we don’t know who she is, but the image creates curiosity that the story will eventually satisfy. Flashbacks can also remind us of things we’ve seen before, as when Jamal recalls, obsessively, the night he and Salim left Latika behind to Maman’s band. Boyle and company call on these time-honored devices in the assurance that wewill pick up on them immediately, as audiences have for decades.

Flashforwards are trickier, and rarer. The 1960s also saw some experimentation with images from future events interrupting the story’s present action. Unless you posit a character who can see the future, as in Don’t Look Now, flashforwards are usually felt as externally imposed, the traces of a filmmaker teasing us with images that we can’t really assimilate at this point. (See They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?) Such flashforwards pop up during the initial police torture of Jamal.

Encountering the bathtub shot so early in the film, we might take it as a flashback, but actually it anticipates a striking image at the climax, after Jamal has been released and returned to the show. I’d argue that the shot functions thematically, as a vivid announcement of the motif of dirty money that runs through the movie and is associated with not only the gangster world but also the corrupt game show.

Slumdog days

Empathy. One of the most powerful ways to get the audience emotionally involved is to show your protagonist treated unfairly. This happens in spades at the start of Slumdog. A serious-faced boy is subjected to awful torture, then he’s intimidated by unfeeling men in authority. He’s mocked as a chaiwallah by the unctuous host of the show, and laughed at by the audience. Once Jamal’s backstory starts, we see him as a kid (again running up against the law) and suffering a variety of miseries.

To keep Jamal from seeming a passive victim, he is given pluck and purpose. As a boy he resists the teacher, boldly jumps into human manure, shoves through a crowd to get an autograph, and eventually becomes a brazen freelance guide to the Taj Mahal. This is the sort of tenacious, resourceful kid who could get on TV and find Salim in teeming Mumbai. The slumdog is dogged.

Our sympathies spread and divide. Latika is also introduced being treated unfairly. An orphan after the riot, she squats in the rain until Jamal makes her the “Third Musketeer.” By contrast, Salim is introduced as a hard case—making money off access to a toilet, selling Jamal’s Bachchan autograph, resisting bringing Latika into their shelter, and eventually becoming Maman’s “dog” and Latika’s rapist. The double plotline gives us a hero bent on finding and rescuing his beloved; the under-plot gives us a shadier figure who finds redemption by risking his life a final time to help his friends. Jamal emerges ebullient from a sea of shit, but Salim dies drowned in the money he identified with power.

Our three main characters share a childhood, and what happens to them then prefigures what they will do as grownups. This is a long-standing device of classical cinema, stretching back to the silent era. Public Enemy and Angels with Dirty Faces give us the good brother and the bad brother. Wuthering Heights, Kings Row, and It’s a Wonderful Life present romances budding in childhood. These are plenty of less famous examples. Here, for instance, is a synopsis of Sentimental Tommy (1921), a film that may no longer exist.

The people of Thrums ostracize Grizel, a child of 12, and her mother, known as The Painted Lady, until newcomer Tommy Sandys, a highly imaginative boy, comes to the girl’s rescue and they become inseparable friends. Six years later Tommy returns from London, where he has achieved success as an author, and finds that Grizel still loves him. In a sentimental gesture he proposes, but she, realizing that he does not love her, rejects him. In London, Tommy is lionized by Lady Pippinworth, and he follows her to Switzerland. Having lost her mother and believing that Tommy needs her, Grizel comes to him but is overcome by grief to see his love for Lady Pippinworth. Remorseful, Tommy returns home, and after his careful nursing Grizel regains her sanity.

The device isn’t unknown in Indian cinema either; Parinda (1989) motivates the character relationships through actions set in childhood. Somehow, we are drawn to seeing one’s lifetime commitments etched early and fulfilled in adulthood.

This story pattern carries within it one of the great thematic oppositions of the cinema, the tension between destiny and accident. In Slumdog, The Three Musketeers may be introduced casually, but it will somehow provide a template for later events. Lovers are destined to meet, even if by chance, and when chance separates them, they are destined to reunite . . . if only by chance. A plot showing children together assures us that somehow they will re-meet, and their childhood traits and desires will inform what they do as adults. It is written.

This theme reaffirms the psychological consistency prized by classic film dramaturgy as well. Characters are introduced doing something, as we say, “characteristic,” and this first impression becomes all the more ingrained by the sense that things had to be this way. What you choose—say, to pursue the love of your childhood—manifests your character. But then, your character was already defined with special purity in that childhood.

Just another movie conceit? The existence of seems to suggest otherwise.

Chance needs an alibi, however. Hollywood films are filled with coincidences, and the rules of the game suggest that they need some minimal motivation. Not so much at the beginning, perhaps, because in a sense every plot is launched by a coincidence. But surely, our plausibilists ask, how could it happen that an uneducated slumdog would have just the right experiences to win the quiz? A lucky guy!

As Swarup realized, the flashback structure helps the audience by putting past experience and present quiz question in proximity for easy pickup. Yet as Beaufoy indicates in one of the most informative screenwriting interviews I know, the device also softens the impression of an outlandishly lucky contestant. At the start we already know that Jamal has won, so the question for us is not “How did he cheat?” but rather “What life experience does the question tap?” Each of the links is buried in a welter of other details, any one of which could tie into the correct answer. Moreover, sometimes the question asked precedes the relevant flashback, and sometimes it follows the flashback, further camouflaging the neat meshing of past and present.

It’s a diabolical contrivance. If you question Jamal’s luck, you ally with the overbearing authorities who suspect cheating. (You just think the film cheated.) Who wants to side with them? By the end the inevitability granted by the flashback obliges us to accept the inspector’s conclusion: “It is bizarrely plausible.”

The film has an even more devious out. Jamal can reason on his own, arriving at the Cambridge Circus answer. More important, his street smarts have made him such a good judge of character that he realizes that the MC is misleading him about the right answer to the penultimate question. So his winning isn’t entirely coincidence. Life experience has let him suss out the interpersonal dynamics behind the apparently objective game. As for the final answer—a lucky guess? Fate?—it’s a good example of how things can be written (in this case by Alexandre Dumas).

Slumdoggy style

The whole edifice is built on a cinematic technique about a hundred years old: parallel editing. Up to the climax, we alternate between three time frames. The police interrogation takes place in the present, the game show in the recent past (shifting from the video replay to the scenes themselves), and Jamal’s life in the more distant past. Any one of these time streams may be punctuated, as we’ve seen, by brief flashbacks. So the problem is how to manage the transitions between scenes in any one time frame and the transitions among time frames.

Needless to say, our old friend the hook—in dialogue, in imagery—is pressed into service often. A sound bridge may link two periods, with the quiz question echoing over a scene in the past. “How did you manage to get on the show?” Cut to Jamal serving tea in the call center. In a particularly smooth segue, the boys are thrown off the train as kids and roll to the ground as teenagers. There are negative hooks too. At the end of a quarrel with Salim, Jamal walks off saying, “I will never forgive you.” The next scene opens with the two of them sitting on the edge of an uncompleted high-rise building, having come to an uneasy truce.

In the climax, the three time frames all come into sync, creating a single ongoing present. Jamal will return to the show. The double-barreled questions are reformulated. Now we have genuine suspense: Will he win the top prize? Will Latika find him? To pose these engagingly, directors Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan create an old-fashioned chase to the rescue.

Each major character gets a line of action, all unwinding simultaneously: Salim prepares to sacrifice himself to the gangster Khan, she flees through traffic, and Jamal enters the contest’s final round. A fourth line of action is added, that of the public intensely following Jamal’s quest for a million. He has become the emblem of the slumdog who makes good.

The rescue doesn’t come off; Latika misses Jamal’s phone plea for a lifeline, and he is on his own. Fortunately, he trusts in luck because “Maybe it’s written, no?” The lovers reunite instead at the train station, where Jamal had pledged to wait for Latika every day at 5:00. Fitting, then, that in the epilogue a crowd shows up, standing in for all of Mumbai, singing and dancing to “Jai Ho” (“Victory”). All the remaining lines of action—Jamal, Latika, and the multitudes—assemble and then disperse in a classic ending: lovers turning from the camera and walking into their future, leaving us behind.

Then there’s the film’s slick technique. The whole thing is presented in a rapid-fire array, with nearly sixty scenes and about 2700 shots bombarding us in less than two hours. Critics both friendly and hostile have commented on the film’s headlong pacing and flamboyant pictorial design. If some of Slumdog’s storytelling strategies reach back to the earliest cinema, its look and feel seems tied to the 1990s and 2000s. We get harsh cuts, distended wide-angle compositions, hurtling camerawork, canted angles, dazzling montage sequences, faces split by the screen edge, zones of colored light, slow motion, fast motion, stepped motion, reverse motion (though seldom no motion). The pounding style, tinged with a certain cheekiness, is already there in most of Danny Boyle’s previous work. Like Baz Luhrmann, he seems to think that we need to see even the simplest action from every conceivable angle.

Yet the stylistic flamboyance isn’t unique to him. He is recombining items on the menu of contemporary cinema, as seen in films as various as Déjà Vu and City of God. (That menu in turn isn’t absolutely new either, but I’ve launched that case in The Way Hollywood Tells It.) More surprisingly, we find strong congruences between this movie’s style and trends in Indian cinema as well.

Over the last twenty years Indian cinema has cultivated its own fairly flashy action cinema, usually in crime films. Boyle has spoken of being influenced by two Ram Gopal Varma films, Satya (1998) and Company (2002). Company‘s thrusting wide angles, overhead shots, and pugilistic jump cuts would be right at home in Slumdog.

It seems, then, that Slumdog’s glazed, frenetic surface testifies to the globalization of one option for modern popular cinema. The film’s style seems to me a personalized variant of what has for better or worse become an international style.


The 2008 film, Slumdog Millionaire, has been a subject of discussion among a variety of people in India and the Indian diaspora. Some film critics have responded positively to the film. At the same time, others objected to issues such as Jamal's use of British English or the fact that similar films by Indian filmmakers have not received equal recognition. A few notable filmmakers such as Aamir Khan and Priyadarshan have been critical of the film. Author and critic Salman Rushdie argues that it has "a patently ridiculous conceit." [1]

Response from film critics[edit]

The film received positive reviews from many Indian film critics, though some were negative and others mixed. According to All Bollywood, the film has an average rating of 81% based on an aggregate of 25 reviews from Indian film critics.[2] It was praised by Nikhat Kazmi of the Times of India who referred to Slumdog Millionaire as "a piece of riveting cinema, meant to be savoured as a Cinderella-like fairy tale, with the edge of a thriller and the vision of an artist." She also argued against criticism of the film, stating: "it was never meant to be a documentary on the down and out in Dharavi. And it isn't."[3] Renuka Vyavahare of Indiatimes suggested that "the film is indeed very Indian" and that it is "one of the best English films set in India and revolving around the country’s most popular metropolis Mumbai."[4] Kaveree Bamzai of India Today called the film "feisty" and argued that it is "Indian at its core and Western in its technical flourish."[5] Anand Giridharadas argued in The New York Times that the film has a "freshness" which "portrays a changing India, with great realism, as something India long resisted being: a land of self-makers, where a scruffy son of the slums can, solely of his own effort, hoist himself up, flout his origins, break with fate." Giridharadas also called the film "a tribute to the irrepressible self."[6] Poorna Shetty stated in The Guardian that "Boyle's depiction of Mumbai is spot on." She further stated that the film displays the "human aspect of the slums and the irrepressible energy and life force of the place" and offers "a breathing snapshot of the city that is always stripped of its warmth when depicted in the news."[7]Khalid Mohamed gave the film a rave review and a 5-star rating.[8]

Others were more critical of the film. One common complaint was directed towards Patel's use of British English which was never explained within the context of the film. In referring to this issue, Mukul Kesavan of The Telegraph (Kolkata) stated that the film is "a hybrid so odd" (due to the decision to have the first third in Hindi and the remainder in English) "that it becomes hard for the Indian viewer to ... suspend disbelief" and that "the transition from child actors who in real life are slum children to young actors who are, just as clearly, middle-class anglophones is so abrupt and inexplicable that it subverts the ‘realism’ of the brilliantly shot squalor in which their lives play out."[9] Furthermore, Gautaman Bhaskaran argued that although the film was shot in India, it is not Indian in character. He questioned the "euphoria in India" after the film's release there, arguing that with a few exceptions, "there is nothing Indian about this film." He concluded that the film has "very little substance" and is "superficial and insensitive."[10]

A more contentious argument lay in the assertion that Indians have already made better and more realistic films about poverty and corruption in India. Subhash K. Jha (author of The Essential Guide to Bollywood) remarked that this territory has already been covered by Indian filmmakers (Mira Nair in Salaam Bombay and Satyajit Ray in the Apu Trilogy).[11] Similarly, Soutik Biswas of the BBC argued that Slumdog Millionaire is an imitation of Indian films that have been "routinely ignored," suggesting that "if you are looking for gritty realism set in the badlands of Mumbai, order a DVD of a film called Satya by Ramgopal Verma. The 1998 feature on an immigrant who is sucked into Mumbai's colourful underworld makes Slumdog look like a slick, uplifting MTVdocu-drama."[12] Matthew Schneeberger, an American working as a journalist in India, opined:

"Say an Indian director travelled to New Orleans for a few months to film a movie about Jamal Martin, an impoverished African American who lost his home in Hurricane Katrina, who once had a promising basketball career, but who -- following a drive-by shooting -- now walks with a permanent limp, whose father is in jail for selling drugs, whose mother is addicted to crack cocaine, whose younger sister was killed by gang-violence, whose brother was arrested by corrupt cops, whose first born child has sickle cell anaemia, and so on. The movie would be widely panned and laughed out of theatres."[13]

Finally, a fourth argument is that a "happy ending" film about slum-dwellers is inherently misleading. For example, Sudip Mazumdar of Newsweek wrote:

"People keep praising the film's 'realistic' depiction of slum life in India. But it's no such thing. Slum life is a cage. It robs you of confidence in the face of the rich and the advantaged. It steals your pride, deadens your ambition, limits your imagination and psychologically cripples you whenever you step outside the comfort zone of your own neighborhood. Most people in the slums never achieve a fairy-tale ending." [14]

Response from filmmakers and actors[edit]

In an interview after the Oscars, actor and filmmaker Aamir Khan argued that he didn't "see Slumdog ... as an Indian film. I think it is a film about India like Gandhi (that) was made by Sir Richard Attenborough. Similarly, Slumdog... is about India but it is not an Indian film." [15][16] However, in another interview, he did praise India's Oscar-winning Resul Pookutty in the interview [17] as well as India's Oscar-winners A. R. Rahman and Gulzar in his personal blog.[18] Director Deepa Mehta also noted in an interview that while Slumdog Millionaire's Oscar win was, "good for the team, the film is an OK's more a Western than Indian film." [19]

Shahrukh Khan, the film's producers' first choice of actor to play game show host Prem Kumar, defended it, stating "I think it's really nice that it will open doors for people to understand that there is a lot of visual appeal to India. I hear a lot of people saying that India has been shown in bad light. But then my logic to everyone is that why is it that somebody comes from outside and makes a film like Gandhi and Slumdog...all we can say about it is that it is showing India in a poor light?"[20]

Mahesh Manjrekar who portrayed the gangster Javed in Slumdog Millionaire commented on the fact that Taare Zameen Par (released overseas by Disney as Like Stars on Earth), India's submission for best foreign film, failed to make the short list of nominations and was frequently compared with Slumdog Millionaire in the Indian media. He stated that Slumdog Millionaire "was an amusing phenomenon! Everybody came out of the woodwork all of a sudden. It was humorous. It was like a team had won a match and the extras in the stand were dancing more than the actual Team XI. But, Slumdog... did some good things for us. It was more Hindi than any of our Hindi films. If any Indian filmmaker would’ve made it, the critics would’ve termed it a ‘convenient film’. I’m sad that Aamir [Khan]’s Taare Zameen Par didn’t make it to the final round of the Oscars. I thought it to be way better than Slumdog..., without taking away anything from Boyle and the kids. But, Indian movies are underestimated there."[21] Filmmaker Mrinal Sen also questioned whether winning the Oscar qualifies Slumdog Millionaire as a good film, stating that other great cinematic performers and filmmakers have not won the Oscar.[22]

Director and filmmaker Priyadarshan criticized Slumdog Millionaire as a "mediocre version of those commercial films about estranged brothers and childhood sweethearts that Salim-Javed used to write so brilliantly in the 1970s." He also stated that he viewed the film at the Toronto Film Festival and that "the Westerners loved it. All the Indian[s] hated it. The West loves to see us as a wasteland, filled with horror stories of exploitation and degradation. But is that all there is to our beautiful city of Mumbai?"[23]

Filmmaker Aadesh Shrivastava claimed that its release in the United States led to the word "slumdog" being used as a slur against Indian Americans, criticizing the positive reaction by some Indians towards what he regarded as a film that directly attacks and insults India.[24]

Response from scholars and authors[edit]

Author and critic Salman Rushdie has responded negatively to both the film Slumdog Millionaire and the novel on which it is based, Q & A. In his essay on film adaptations, "A Fine Pickle," Rushdie argues that the plot of Swarup's novel is "a patently ridiculous conceit, the kind of fantasy writing that gives fantasy writing a bad name. It is a plot device faithfully preserved by the film-makers, and lies at the heart of the weirdly renamed Slumdog Millionaire. As a result the film, too, beggars belief." [1] He made similar statements about Slumdog Millionaire in a talk given at Emory University, where he is a professor, arguing that its plot "piles impossibility on impossibility," [25] and in an earlier interview with The New York Times, where he conceded that he found the film "visually brilliant. But I have problems with the story line.... It just couldn’t happen. I’m not averse to magic realism but there has to be a level of plausibility, and I felt there were three or four moments in the film where the storyline breached that rule."[26] Rushdie also blasted Boyle's admission that he made the film in part because he was unfamiliar with India, challenging Boyle to imagine "an Indian film director making a movie about New York low-life and saying that he had done so because he knew nothing about New York and had indeed never been there. He would have been torn limb from limb by critical opinion. But for a first world director to say that about the third world is considered praiseworthy, an indication of his artistic daring. The double standards of post-colonial attitudes have not yet wholly faded away."[1]

Some critics have suggested that the film is an imitation of "homegrown" Indian products. Radha Chadha, co-author (with Paul Husband) of The Cult of the Luxury Brand: Inside Asia's Love Affair with Luxury, argued that while Slumdog Millionaire is entertaining, it is still a "masala film," the kind of Bollywood product which Indians grow up watching. As to its popularity in the West, she further suggested that what is "ordinary" (in terms of film genre) for an Indian audience "is extraordinary for the world" and that "the mesmerizing soft power of Bollywood which has kept a billion Indians enthralled for decades is touching the rest of the world."[27] Priya Joshi, an associate professor of English at Temple University, argued that the film's indebtedness to Bollywood cinema runs far deeper than the happy ending: "In the same way that Cinema Paradiso paid homage to the transformative power of Hollywood movies of the 1940s, Slumdog testifies to the power of Bollywood's blockbusters from the 1970s, and it's no accident that the first question on the quiz show is about the 1973 hit Zanjeer."[28] Ananda Mitra, professor of communication at Wake Forest University, described Slumdog Millionaire as a modern-day retelling of 1970s Bollywood films, citing Nasir Hussain's Yaadon Ki Baraat (1973) in particular.[29]

Others have echoed the critiques of Mukul Kesavan and Aamir Khan above concerning language use. For example, Smitha Radhakrishnan, assistant professor of sociology at Wellesley College, noted in UCLA's online Asia Pacific Arts journal that although the film offers "an action-packed, devastating, intriguing, and oddly beautiful world," it also contains notable "slip-ups," of which the "most glaring was the language. Despite the plausible explanation that Jamal and Salim picked up English, posing as tour guides at the Taj Mahal, it is highly implausible that they would come out of that experience speaking perfect British English, as Dev Patel does in portraying the grown-up Jamal. It's highly implausible that he would speak to Latika and Salim in English as an adult too."[30]

Professor Vrinda Nabar, the former chair of English at the University of Mumbai, argued that the film ignores the "complexity" of Mumbai as "a city in which sensitivity coexists with despair, commitment with indifference, activism with inaction, and humanism with the inhumane."[31] Shyamal Sengupta, a professor of film studies at the Whistling Woods International Institute for Films, Media, Animationa and Media Arts in Mumbai, criticized the film for its stereotypical portrayals of Indians by calling it a "white man's imagined India. It's not quite snake charmers, but it's close. It's a poverty tour."[32] Matias Echanove and Rahul Srivastava noted critically in The New York Times that the film misrepresents and stereotypes the Dharavi slum in Mumbai.[33]

Professor Mitu Sengupta, in the Department of Politics & Public Administration at Ryerson University in Toronto, criticized the way in which Mumbai's poor were depicted, stating:

"In the end, Slumdog presents a profoundly dehumanizing view of the poor, with all its troubling political implications. Since there are no internal resources, and none capable of constructive voice or action, all 'solutions' must arrive externally. After a harrowing life in an anarchic wilderness, salvation finally comes to Jamal in the form of an imported quiz-show, which he succeeds in thanks only to 'destiny.' Must other unfortunates, like the stoic Jamal, patiently await their own destinies of rescue by a foreign hand? While this self-billed 'feel good movie of the year' may help us 'feel good' that we are among the lucky ones on earth, it delivers a patronizing, colonial and ultimately sham statement on social justice for those who are not." [34]


  1. ^ abcRushdie, Salman (28 February 2009). "A Fine Pickle". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 March 2009. 
  2. ^"Slumdog Millionaire". All Bollywood. 
  3. ^Kazmi, Nikhat (22 January 2009). "Slumdog Millionaire:Movie Review". Times of India. Retrieved 22 January 2009. 
  4. ^Vyavahare, Renuka (22 January 2009). "Movie Review: Slumdog Millionaire". Indiatimes. Retrieved 22 January 2009. 
  5. ^Bamzai, Kaveree (24 January 2009). "Maximum movie about maximum city". India Today. Retrieved 24 January 2009. 
  6. ^Giridharadas, Anand (17 January 2009). "Horatio Alger Relocates to a Mumbai Slum". New York Times. Retrieved 17 January 2009. 
  7. ^Shetty, Poorna (18 January 2009). "So what do British Asians think of Slumdog Millionaire?". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 January 2009. 
  8. ^"Cuts Straight to the Heart"
  9. ^Kesavan, Muku (5 February 2009). "Lost In Translation". The Telegraph (Kolkata). Retrieved 5 February 2009. 
  10. ^Bhaskaran, Gautaman (24 January 2009). "Slumdog Millionaire: A Warped Picture of India". The Seoul Times. Retrieved 24 January 2009. 
  11. ^Jha, Subhash K. (22 January 2009). "Subhash K Jha speaks about Slumdog Millionaire". Bollywood Hungama. Retrieved 22 January 2009. 
  12. ^Biswas, Soutik (22 January 2009). "'Why Slumdog fails to move me'". BBC. Retrieved 22 January 2009. 
  13. ^Review
  14. ^Man Bites Slumdog by Sudip Mazumdar, Newsweek, February 21, 2009
  15. ^Indo-Asian News Service (31 January 2009). "I don't make films for awards: Aamir Khan". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 31 January 2009. 
  16. ^Press Trust of India (31 January 2009). "No Obama-like leader in Indian politics: Aamir". India Today. Retrieved 31 January 2009. 
  17. ^I am happy for Slumdog: Aamir Khan
  18. ^Aamir Khan's Blog
  19. ^Interview : Deepa Mehta
  20. ^
  21. ^No more acting for me: Mahesh Manjrekar
  22. ^Oscars do not make 'Slumdog' great film: Mrinal Sen
  23. ^Jha, Subhash K. (1 February 2009). "Slumdog... is trashy: Priyadarshan". NDTV. Retrieved 1 February 2009. 
  24. ^Aadesh Shrivastava outraged at Bachchan's portrayal in Slumdog Millionaire,
  25. ^Hart, Ariel (23 February 2009). "Slumdog' no hit with Rushdie". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 1 March 2009. 
  26. ^"Salman Rushdie, Oscar Prognosticator". New York Times. 6 January 2009. Retrieved 14 January 2009. 
  27. ^Chadha, Radha (17 January 2009). "The Slumdog Millionaire Route to Luxury". Livemint. Retrieved 17 January 2009. 
  28. ^Kim Fisher, Temple’s Priya Joshi explains why Slumdog Millionaire has won our hearts,Temple News, January 2009 (accessed 2009 January 19).
  29. ^""Slumdog Millionaire" seeks inspiration from Bollywood of 70s, says expert". Asian News International. 31 January 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-02. 
  30. ^Radhakrishnan, Smitha (28 November 2008). "Slumdog Sincerity". UCLA Asian Institute. Retrieved 13 January 2009. 
  31. ^Nabar, Vrinda (10 January 2009). "Slumdog Millionaire bizarrely plausible?". Daily News and Analysis. Retrieved 14 January 2009. 
  32. ^Indians don't feel good about 'Slumdog Millionaire'LA Times, 24 January 2009.
  33. ^Taking the Slum Out of 'Slumdog'The New York Times, 21 February 2009.
  34. ^Slumdog Millionaire's Dehumanizing View of India's Poor by Mitu Sengupta, Weekend Edition, February 20, 2009

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