Why Is Slumdog In The Dog House?

On Monday, I went to watch Slumdog Millionaire at Cinestar in the Mall of the Emirates. For me, it was a historic moment: my first movie outing in Dubai.

By Sushmita Bose (Freewheeling)

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Published: Fri 30 Jan 2009, 10:44 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 12:58 AM

And now that I’ve figured out how easy it is to watch a movie here (no frisking and no rifling through handbags by stern-looking security guards — it felt wonderful to realise that life can be so simple), I look forward to watching Revolutionary Road and Valkyrie real soon.

So there I was inside the theatre, armed with a giant Coke and a platter of nachos (the jalapenos on the side got me all hot and flustered), accompanied by a visiting friend from Delhi. Apart from my friend and I, there were 12 other people in the hall — a trio of Indians, a couple of Emiratis, and the rest were either Americans or Britons (actually, they could have been Canadians or Aussies or Kiwis).

Did I feel a frisson of pride at the sight of more non-Indians than Indians watching a movie based in India’s financial capital Mumbai?

No, not really. Slumdog Millionaire is a British film, directed by Danny Boyle, whose Trainspotting was, I felt, a tad over the top. And even though Slumdog is based on a book by an Indian author, the screenplay has been adapted by Simon Beaufoy of The Full Monty fame — again, a movie I found a bit too grounded in not-so-nice British reality for my full understanding and, therefore, full appreciation.

Now, I’d have much rather debuted my Dubai cinematic experience with Revolutionary Road, but there is a reason why I opted for Slumdog. It wasn’t Boyle or Beaufoy, for reasons mentioned above. It was like this.

Last week, I was shopping at Bur Dubai’s Citimart for my weekly groceries.

For background music, there was FM radio blaring down at the shoppers — and, as usual, there was a Hindi channel programmed in (hardly surprising, since most of the shoppers at the market, including myself, are from India). What caught my attention was an excitable — and high-pitched — conversation being conducted between the host (hostess, in this case) and a caller.

They were talking about Slumdog Millionaire. No, not because it has recently been nominated for the Oscars in 10 categories, or because it has been routinely sweeping all major film awards. The gentleman who had called in was ranting about how ‘a foreigner’, i.e. Boyle, was exposing the seamy underbelly of India: how dare he? How would he like it if tables were turned? And so on.

The host (hostess) joined in with shrill alacrity, adding that India has better things to offer than “slum tourism” — so can the rest of the world please take a note of that?

Amitabh Bachchan, probably the most recognisable living Indian in the world, had gone on record saying that “if Slumdog projects India as [a] third-world, dirty underbelly, developing nation [sic] and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots, let it be known that a murky underbelly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations.”

Then, he retracted the statement saying that it wasn’t his opinion; he had only been airing a comment sent to him by one of many people who write in on his blog. Ah well. The damage has already been done.

So, for a change, the spin doctors of India Shining are not trying to steal the thunder from Boyle and passing it off as yet another feather in India’s soft power cap — and as a sign that India is well and truly on its way to achieving superpower status.

They are instead trying their best to pull the red carpet from under Danny Boy’s feet.

I don’t know how many of us remember a maverick called Mahesh Bhatt, who started out as a decent Bollywood filmmaker, before losing the plot completely.

A few years ago, he retired from directing (I don’t think there is anybody out there missing him and his horrific adaptations of Cat People), and taken to shooting from the hip.

Slumdog Millionaire is not an Indian film and will not help the country. It is Danny Boyle’s film and he is just using India’s finest talent to hit hard at the Oscars this year... my question is why is it that the same Indian talent is never recognised by the Oscar Jury when it independently enters the race of awards? When it is a foreign film with Indians, you honour it and when it is an Indian film of same calibre, they don’t even have a look at it...” He ends his tirade with, “So it is just like making hay while the sun shines for Danny Boyle, who is using Indian effect for grabbing an Oscar.”

Like most with other things in life, Indians are in denial about their true feelings for the Oscars, the granddaddy of all film awards. Ever so often, some Indian film industry-type will make noises about how Bollywood doesn’t really need an ‘endorsement’ from Hollywood, but if by any chance there is an Indian connect to anything remotely Hollywood-ian or Western, the eulogising that follows could give you an ulcer.

So, logically, we will not be stricken by the ulcer-inducing eulogising even if Slumdog Millionaire sweeps the Oscars, right?

Wanna bet?

Sushmita Bose is the Features Editor of Khaleej Times. Write to her at:


More news from