WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!
There are movies about India and there are movies about India. Particularly when it comes to dealing with an iconic city like Bombay (yes, “Bombay”… most Indians refuse to use the politicized names such as Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, etc.). Bombay has long been the city of dreams in India, what with it being India’s biggest city, its financial capital, one of the largest ports in the country, and of course the Hindi film industry is based there (“Bollywood” for the uninitiated).
From the time movies have been made in India there have been various attempts to showcase life in Bombay and even attempts at making the city a character in the movie. There have been movies about the rich, the poor, criminals and cops, politicians and prostitutes, businessmen and ordinary people — you name it, its been done in Bombay.
Enter Mr. Danny Boyle and company to make a movie in India. One guess where it's set — Bombay! Well, then he wants to make a movie about Indians and let’s have another guessing game what it's about — slums and poverty. And let’s not forget that ultimate cliché that is common to Grandma’s bedtime stories, folklore and bad B-movies — it is a “rags to riches” story with a girl thrown in as well.
Well, it seems like one western filmmaker after another is out to “showcase” India to the rest of the world. First there was John Jeffcoat with his pathetic attempt at showing the software outsourcing industry in India with Outsourced, which received “rave reviews” and and now Danny Boyle comes along with Slumdog Millionaire. Why is it that a movie about India is received in the west only if it is cliche-ridden and shows cows, slums, and general poverty (of late it is the outsourcing and tech support angles)? And even then, why must is be made by a non-Indian? Shekhar Kapur made a really good movie called Bandit Queen and the Oscar committee did not have the sense to add it to the Oscar candidates’ list, let along nominate it. Of course, at the time, they were worried someone was going to sue them for it.