“The Real India” Globalization in Slumdog Millionaire

This is my second time watching Slumdog Millionaire. In class last week, we discussed the different reactions Indians have had to this film. My step mom believes this movie portrays India in a negative light. Her argument is, if this is the first thing the west watches about India, well then, we are giving into white expectations. In her view, the movie depicts India as impoverished, and the scene where the child tries to get the Amitabh Bachan’s picture, does not sit well with her (13:00). She just cannot see anyone doing this, but I argue with her that she did not grow up in that socioeconomic background. Personally, I enjoy this movie greatly. I believe it touches on themes of Bollywood, like love romance, and dance, but the movie never tries to make fun of the culture. It also addresses political pitfalls in India, like the overwhelming corruption, and it does well balancing Bollywood with India’s politics. For example, in the beginning, we see a police officer “interrogating” Dev, I saw this as an allusion to the rampant corruption in India’s political and legal hierarchy. Another example comes in the flashback scene when Jamal and Salim ask the police for help in the Muslim riots. The police tell them to “get lost” (19:23).

From the beginning of the movie, when we see the introduction of Anil Kapoor, Dev Patel, and the game show, Who wants to be Millionaire?, the movie evokes the globalization that is rapidly occurring in the 21st century. The game is a British show that became popular in the U.S. Later, the game show becomes a hit in India. In a way, it is ironic that a show that is, inherently British, has become popular in India. I remember when I was young, Amitabh Bachan, the godfather of Indian cinema, hosted the show. I would watch the show and be mesmerized. It is addicting, easy to understand, and grew like wildfire in India. Due to globalization, shows like these spread throughout the world, and Dev Patel is a globalized product. I like the scene, where Irrfan Khan switches on the TV in the police station. The camera, at first, shows Dev and the police officers, and then, the TV being switched on. The camera slowly starts to focus on the TV moving closer and closer to it until we are literally inside the TV and scene with Anil and Dev (10:09). I thought this was important to show how TV has connected the world around us. In the movie, Dev works at a call center, which is also an allusion to the globalized economy. When the west thinks of call centers, we imagine, Indians like Dev in a far way land trying to give us help with our phones or gadgets. Call centers are way that the world has become increasingly connected, yet they also bring fodder. We see this in the scene where Jamal briefly attends the phone line.

The movie focuses on globalization but also the divide between classes. When the audience is introduced to the first flashback with Jamal, we see a plane soar overhead while the kids play cricket in the airfield (6:32). The scene not only shows globalization, but the divide between rich and poor. Symbolically, the people in the plane are off to a new destination, leaving Jamal in the slums surrounded by poverty. The overhead views of the slums clearly show this imbalance. Another example comes when Salim and Jamal meet after the split in the killing of Maman, this scene stuck out to me. Salim says to his brother, “India is at the center of the world”. The scene signifies how the middle class has grown in India, but Salim and Jamal look down at the slums leaving it behind. The slums still exist, and there is still poverty! Furthermore,  Jamal is constantly referred to by his occupation and his job becomes his identity. It becomes a way of disparaging him as a person.

In conclusion, I think this movie is great. It shows an ambiguity toward western encroachment at times, but I believe, it wholeheartedly advocates global participation is vital.

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