Movie Review: Slumdog (Untouchable) Millionaire
March 2, 2009, 8:26 am
Filed under: culture, globalization, India, media, travel

Note: This isn’t really a movie review per-se.  It’s more of a reflection from a guy who doesn’t watch many movies, and is, therefore, unqualified for such a task.

This weekend I followed the masses and went to a theater to watch the recent Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire.  I had heard from a wide variety of people how good the movie was.  I had heard a couple of radio interviews with the director as well.  The fact that the film told the story of extreme poverty in India, which I was able to witness first-hand last summer, was all the motivation I needed to see it.

The movie was as good as advertised.  It tells a compelling story of survival, love, and faithfulness.  It does so while giving a glimpse of the complex changes taking place in India – the extreme disparity between the super-wealthy and the slums.  The framing device – a television quiz show – actually hides one of the remarkable truths about the economic rise of India in the past decade.  What I mean by this is that while it is extraordinary that a “slumdog” would become unimaginably wealthy via the game show, it is really quite impressive that this same character would have had the opportunity to get a job fetching chai in a call center.

My main response to the film, though, is that I’m very disappointed that in all of the hoopla, in all of the critical praise, in all of the attention this has brought to the issue of global poverty, there’s a word I’ve literally not heard mentioned until I Googled it this morning: caste.  When I did so, I found an excellent article (written prior to the Academy Awards) that deals squarely with the truth that’s left unmentioned by the film.  The destructiveness of the caste system is in full view, but it is explained away as exploitive organized crime, religious extremism, or the birth pains of a new economy.  The truth is, caste is hugely responsible for India’s poverty – a massive majority of the poor are Dalits, or “Untouchables.”  This is the system that locks people into lives of digging through trash heaps, living in houses made of mud, begging.

I don’t want to be cranky – I’m glad the film has brought attention to the issues being widely discussed.  If you haven’t seen it yet, I definitely encourage you to do so.  It just would have been nice if it told a little bit of the rest of the story.  Go read that article, as well as the lengthy discussion in the comments section – it’ll give you a better glimpse of what’s really going on.


1 Comment so far
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this is one of the most amazing movies ive ever watched it funny inspiring a definte work of art its truly and amazing love story

Comment by Tom McRae

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