I haven’t been to India recently, so I’ve had to rely almost exclusively on Western accounts of anger in some Indian sectors about the now-Oscar-winning movie, Slumdog Millionaire. Apparently, some were angry about the word ‘dog,’ which they found particularly offensive. Note, again, how culturally specific insults can be: ‘monkey’ is not at all registered in India, whereas ‘dog’ — I know this from personal experience — goes too far (‘bastard’, as well, as Anil Kumble pointed out to Brad Hogg, also goes beyond the pale).
Others, however, were angry that the film’s central characters and plot came out of Dharavi, the massive slum in Bombay. I’m not sure I understand their logic, because, as ‘slum’ films go, this one was far better a portrayal than City of Joy, a Patrick Swayze movie from the 1990s that relied on the savior-Westerner prototype as its main protagonist, and focused much less on Indian wealth. That film, of course, also attracted protests, but Slumdog is simply different, since it is not meant to be a “realist” portrayal; it is a fantastic romp through a series of bigger-than-life characters (see Anil Kapoor’s role especially). Continue reading