A SQUALID, FEEL-GOOD EXPORT

Despite my disappointment with his last film, I decided to give Danny Boyle another chance and see "Slumdog Millionaire" in late November. Like Boyle, who admitted to never having been to India before he began shooting in Mumbai, I entered the theatre with some naivety. And like most everyone who has seen this amazing film (well, except for Salman Rushdie), I left the theatre deeply impressed with the director's ability to bring to life a place I had only read about. As I watched the auditorium empty out, I noticed quite a few South Asians mixed with the cinema-house's typical pale-faced, bespectacled demographic. I couldn't help but wonder how such a raw and unflinching portrait of India would be seen by someone who actually lived there. We will all find out next week.

After winning the coveted Golden Globe for Best Picture (and a number of other high-profile awards), "Slumdog Millionaire" will be released in India on January 23rd by Fox Star Studios in both English and Hindi. The setting and clever casting of Anil Kapoor and Irrfan Khan, both popular bilingual Bollywood stars, have given the film a pre-release buzz that few imports enjoy in the highly competitive Indian film market. But some worry that the film's grit will limit its success

"Indian audiences don't like watching poverty and squalor on screen. They see enough of it in their daily lives," said filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar, whose portrayal of street kids in his 2007 film 'Traffic Signal' bombed at the box office.

Other Indians, such as Amitabh Bachchan, a Bollywood superstar, resent the film's unflattering portrayal of their country: 

"If SM (Slumdog Millionaire) projects India as [a] Third World dirty underbelly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots, let it be known that a murky underbelly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations"... Mr Bachchan wrote in his blog.

"It's just that the SM idea authored by an Indian and conceived and cinematically put together by a Westerner, gets creative [Golden] Globe recognition. The other would perhaps not." 

It's interesting to take a look at the comments being posted on CNN's "Sound Off" on the subject. The film's box office numbers will speak for themselves soon enough.

This video of Danny Boyle talking about India has some merit, despite the weird tinkling music in the background.

~ CORBIN HIAR