Why ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ is already a hit in India

Written by The Indian Express | Published: January 13, 2009 4:26 am

So Slumdog Millionaire evoked some “mad,pulsating affection” at the Golden Globes,in director Danny Boyle’s words. We in India,of course,take the triumph personally,though it hasn’t even been commercially released here. And Mumbai is not just aesthetic wallpaper here — unlike,say,the recent Darjeeling Limited. With significant Indian participation in the making of it,Slumdog Millionaire is our biggest crossover success story in film (leaving Bend it Like Beckham and The Namesake behind) so far,much like its own rags-to-fabulous-riches narrative arc. And that’s certainly one of the reasons we’re all rooting for it — like Juno last year,it’s a low-budget,scrappy outsider-effort that could possibly unseat the big studio spectaculars of the year.

Today,such transnational cultural traffic moves in all directions,and more than ever. While Japanese cultural exports like anime are “odourless”,characteristically stripped of their Japaneseness,Indian movies never let you forget where they’re from. Naturally,the American press is full of descriptions of the fable-like narrative,the extreme poverty,the gaudy colours,

the swelling music,and ineffable “joyousness” of the movie.

And while some of us bristle at the obvious Oscar hankering,the way the American Academy Awards are still the final arbiters of excellence — the fact remains that we live in times when our creative industries are more interlinked than ever. Despite all our fever-dreams of cultural imperialism,Hollywood hasn’t steamrollered our films.

Indian money can finance Hollywood projects (Reliance Big Entertainment invested $1.6 billion in Steven Spielberg’s Dreamworks),and even as Indian movies are shaped by global influences,they are also tremendously influential and beloved in many parts of the world. If anything,movies like Slumdog Millionaire are genuine creative collaborations that unsettle expectations,fuse experiences and bring out the best in all involved.

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