Feb 28, 2009

India's Coming of Age in Slumdog Millionaire

A few years back I had the “privilege” of running tech and audio for a convention celebrating Indian and Southeastern Asian “Americans.” I had the impression that the event would be full of the typical minority overcoming “oppressive” white America speeches and testimonials. Instead, the convention was full of bragging about how these various groups of Asians are taking over America via international marketplace. One of the Indian speakers bragged that all of his relatives owned an Exxon or a 7-Eleven. Basically, he played on the type of stereotypes that would get a European-American thrown out of such an event.

After watching Slumdog Millionaire last night courtesy of mad dog mAQ allowing me to get in for free, I couldn’t help but think of the Indian and Southeastern Asian event I had attended years before. Slumdog Millionaire is a coming of age story about an Indian boy named Jamal who basically goes from being an inhabitant of Mumbai third world sewer to a millionaire. With the boys rise to adulthood in the world, also comes the development of India into a serious global economic player. Jamal even takes a job at one of those outsourcing telephone service companies. I am sure everyone has had the annoying opportunity to call a company and having to deal with a telephone operator who has a hard time both speaking English and understanding what you are talking about.

Typical annoying and worthless protesters

In all honesty, Slumdog Millionaire is a well contrived and constructed film but highly overrated like most of director Danny Boyle’s work. Also, the film is one of few honest major motion picture films. Aside from the sickening “we are the world” propaganda in many Hollywood movies, few mainstream films address the age globalization and the new world order we are entering. Now even Hindus and Muslims can watch trash American TV shows like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Slumdog Millionaire makes it clear that the world is becoming homogenized and with it the dissolution of culture. Through Jamal’s life of struggle, he accidentally becomes a player in the international market and for the “citizen of the world” that is the only thing left to obtain in our new materialist world.

I won’t be giving away any “spoilers” by saying that Slumdog Millionaire ends with a triumphant Bollywood style dance featuring Jamal (plus his girl) and a group of random street dwellers. I found this silly ending of the film to be interesting because I saw a similar thing take place at the Indian and Southeastern Asian convention I attended. Aside from bragging about India’s success internationally, the only evidence of Indian culture were the goofy Bollywood dances these people performed. Just like many other “up and coming” third world nations of the world, they are trading in their old culture for economic and industrial development. The Bollywood dance is merely a last remnant of what Indian culture was.

One could say that Karl Marx’s dream of a materialistic and cultureless international world is coming true. One only has to go to a local gas station to see one of the many “American” members of the Indian diaspora. The wise Indian has his eye on the money and he’s willing to work 12 hour days serving hostile American blacks (Indians really seem to hate them) and whites to get it. Slumdog Millionaire is a film about both the triumph of a Young man and his country. The film, like the Indian-American, is a hybrid of both east and west. Slumdog Millionaire features both the Hindi and English language. Like the film, the borders between nations and cultures are becoming blurred. For those third world peoples that are lucky enough to “immigrate” to America, they have a better life to look forward to. For those members not lucky enough to find a good outsourced job in India or ability to make a living in America, the future probably looks bleak. Just like the lower classes in the United States, with the dissolution of culture, they have not much to look forward to except maybe watching films featuring Bollywood style dances.

-Ty E


Keith said...

This post reminded me about something my sister had talked about. She's a college student, but works as a pharmacy tech. Almost every pharmacist in this area is Indian.

Nigel M said...

A minor quibble here but Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is not American, Along with American Idol and the Weakest Link it is British, :)

as you were...

Anonymous said...

slumdog millionaire must be the most ludicrously over-rated pile of unwatchable celluloid garbage that has ever disgraced our screens, and by the way, danny boyle is himself a freshly excreted pile of dog-shit and so are all of his pathetic, laughable films.

Paul Kell said...

most overrated, no doubt! unbelievable.