A Fine Line of Representation

I remember when this film came out, there was controversy because many Indians felt Slumdog Millionaire portrayed India too negatively. Many movie universes showcase dystopias and harsh lives the characters suffer through. In this movie: two young boys witness their mother’s murder at the hands of a violent mob, Jamal and Salim’s home is destroyed because of riots between Hindus and Muslims, children are blinded to earn more as beggars, poor underage girls like Latika are groomed to enter prostitution, the police are corrupt and torture and beat up kids, men like Maman and Javed run the streets, and so on. While such a harsh world may work for a TV show like Game of Thrones or a movie like The Hunger Games, those worlds are fictional and feature people who already have exposure in many types of films. Fans of Games of Thrones, for example, clearly know that the show does not accurately depict Europe or European history. But most Americans know little of India except what they see on the news or in popular culture, and India and Indians already have little representation. So, a movie like Slumdog Millionaire may give most unknowing Americans wrong impressions of India as a country full of corruption, violence, and exploitation of the poor; which makes Indians’ protests and dislike of the movie somewhat understandable. Perhaps movies like Slumdog Millionaire would be better received if movies about or set in India were more common amongst American audiences.

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