“Slumdog Millionaire” – the movie (2008); Cultural Globalization* not a Cosmopolitan** Culture (Part C)

Before we move on to the Cosmopolitan Culture which film director Mira Nair promoted through her first feature film “Salaam Bombay” in 1988,and later on with her other feature films,documentaries and cultural activities within the U.S.A and in other countries,I would like to introduce one last information in order to demonstrate how “corrupt”, “immoral” and “machiavellian” Cultural Globalization can be,when it has to protect its interests(financial and ideological), from persons who may threaten their global strategies.

In the previous two parts of our article on “Slumdog Millionaire” the movie and on “Cultural Globalization”,we first focused on how Cultural Globalization through this particular movie could distort the true socio-cultural image of an ancient peoples,in this case the peoples of India,all for “profit” and “cultural imperialism”.Then,we saw how the people responsible for making and distributing this film,through “greed”” and a “predatory” sense of life,tried to exploit two of the movie΄s child actors,Rubina Ali Qureshi,nine years old,and Azharrudin Mohammed”, ten years old,both very poor street children who are still living in the slum neighborhoods of Mumbai or Bombay in India.

Once the news came out worldwide about how “unethical” and “unfeeling” the protagonists of the film were towards these two poor Indian children,the outcry of movie viewers around the world was so overwhelming,that British director Danny Boyle, American producer Christian Colson,and the American disributing company Fox Searchlight,had to provide the media with “half truths” in order to “patch things up”.Nevertheless,the scandal was so obvious and extreme,that it did not only hurt the “status” of these protagonists ,but more importantly,it “blemished” and “undermined” the “perfect virtual image” of Cultural Globalization.The social forces of Western Cultural Globalization had to denigrate the real perpetrators of these accusations,meaning the parents of these child actors before “things got out of hand”.They had to demonstrate to the whole world how these “desperate”,”illiterate” and “destitute” non-westerners were essentially “greedy” and “unscrupulus”,not only as inpiduals but also as representatives of a whole non-western society whose everyday social values and norms are reprehensible.Those “mediators” of Cultural Globalization orchestrated a scandal which would annul the “integrity” and the “credibility” of the parents of these two young Indian children,thus weakening the momentum of their accusations,demands and expectations.

An undercover reporter of the British newspaper “News of the World”(a major newspaper of the entertainment business), claiming to be acting as “middleman” for a rich Arab prince who wanted to”adopt” the “girl star” Rubina Ali Qureshi,contacted her father Rafiq Qureshi, to discuss the price of this transaction if he would agree to it.From the story which was published in sequels by the “News of the World”,and which was soon picked up by the media around the world,especially in the West,we learned that the father of Rubina first asked 75,000 american dollars to let his daughter go,while during the second contact with the undercover reporter,the father raised the price to 300,000 american dollars.In the newspaper,the undercover reporter wrote that both Rubina΄s father and uncle were involved in bargaining for the price of the girl,which they both considered it very reasonable,taking into account that Rubina was now a world film-star and the family remained very poor,living in the slums of Mumbai (p.2. www.femalefirst.co.uk/entertainment/Slumdog+Millionaire-66…)After the story was first published in the British newspaper “News of the World”,the Mumbai police questioned Rubina and her father Rafiq Qureshi,but no legal charges were pronounced(p.1.www.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474977661…).The scandal orchestrated by the “mediators” of Western Cultural Globalization had been a most “successful” and “effective” strategy.We have come to this conclusion from what can be observed in the various Internet sites which write commentaries on “Slumdog Millionaire” the movie.Most of these Internet sites talk extensively about “how great” the movie is, the “unfeeling” and “immoral” actions of Rubina΄s father and how “unfairly” the makers of the film were treated by the world media.There was little about the “ignorant” and “predatory” attitude of these western protagonists towards these two simple but talented Indian children and the rich and complex culture they represented.

Now let us take a look at the “wholesome” and “creative” side of human artistic expression within the social context of a Cosmopolitan Culture ,and all the socio-economic parameters which maintain it and promote it.

A Cosmopolitan Culture in human historical evolution,has not been the rule but the exception to the rule- the further back we go into history,the more evident and common Cosmopolitan Cultures become,especially in ancient times.A Cosmopolitan Culture is the only social environment which allowed humanity to maintain its internal cohesion and sanity,as well as its universal drive forward for a more harmonious,dynamic and creative human existence.In its social format,a Cosmopolitan Culture is multi-cultural,where different cultures interact “on an equal basis”,thus permitting and reinforcing the unique talents of inpiduals,societies and cultures,irrespective of ethnicity,creed,colour or even power.Hellenistic Alexandria, for more than 500 years(300B.C.-200A.D.),even after Rome΄s conquest of Egypt just before the birth of Christ,supported and promoted a Cosmopolitan Culture where the knowhow and the talents of peoples such as the Egyptians,the Greeks,the Semites, the Romans and others,were utilized and allowed to flourish,enhancing every creative human endeavour,from the sciences to architecture,and from philosophy and poetry to painting and sculpture.After the 2nd century A.D.,a one-dimensional,dogmatic and powerhungry Christianity(nothing to do with Christ΄s philosophy of life),put an end to this social environment of free expression and respect for the unique talents of inpiduals,peoples and cultures.The same type of Cosmopolitan Culture we find in the city of Baghdad when it became the capital of the Islamic Dynasty of the Abbasids(750-1268A.D.),in Venice during the time of the European Renaissance,in Paris after the French Revolution(1789-1799) and in New York after WWI until the present day.These are only a few historical reference points of a Cosmopolitan Culture;there have been many more throughout history and throughout the world.If we had to pinpoint the main dynamic aspect of a Cosmopolitan Culture,we would have to say that it is the single “human social environment” which contains those active human tools and incentives which can elevate or expose all human universals, transcending historical,cultural and ethnic boundaries.

Mira Nair ,the “woman” director of the movie “Salaam Bombay”(1988),was born in India on October 15,1957,and was educated at Delhi University and at Harvard University in the United States.She was the youngest of three children,born and raised in a middle-class Hindu family.Her father was a civil servant and her mother a social worker(p.1-2.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki /Mira_Nair).

At Delhi University she studied sociology,while she was active in political street theater,becoming an actress in an amateur drama company.In 1976,at the age of 19,she left for the U.S.A on a scholarship at Harvard University.At this American university she continued her studies in sociology,where she also met her first husband,the Jewish American photographer Mitch Epstein,as well as her permanent woman scriptwriter,Sooni Taraporevala,who was an Indian Zoroastrian(ancient religion of the Persians).She soon began making documentary films with a socio-political content to them.Her first feature film was “Salaam Bombay” in 1988,with a screenplay by Sooni Taraporevala.This film as with “Slumdog Millionaire”,describes the everyday lives of Indian street children who come from the slums of Mumbai or Bombay.All the actors and actresses are from these slums,and there are no professional actors or actresses as was the case in “Slumdog Millionaire”.Similarly,the plot of the story has nothing to do with something “extraordinary”(T.V. game show) or “exotic”(western musical) within the context of India΄s cultural tradition.The film “Salaam Bombay” describes “realistically” and “creatively” the “plight” as well as the “ingenuity” of poor and destitute children ,who try to survive and cope as best as they can ,in a “corrupt” and “unjust” social environment(p.1-2.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salaam_Bombay!).These sreet children could be found anywhere in the world,from New York to Moscow,and from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to Banghok in Tailand.The movie is rich in socio-political messages concerning the “present human condition” in an “inhuman world”,yet not rich in “virtual sensationalism” like the film “Slumdog Millionaire”.The film won many international awards including the “Golden Camera” and “Audience” awards at the Cannes Film Festival,as well as the nomination for for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.The film was a coproduction involving India,Great Britain and France,while it became an instantaneous commercial success worlwide.From the proceeds of the movie,director Mira Nair established in 1989,a philanthropic organization called “Salaam Baalak Trust”,with the aim of “rehabilitating” all the street children who had participated in her film!!!This Trust was eventually expanded to “rehabilitate” thousands of Indian street children,not only in Mumbai but in other Indian cities(p.3.http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Salaam_Bombay!).We shall talk about this Trust in more detail,after taking a brief look at the purely artistic and cultural activities of Mira Nair.

In 1991,Mira Nair directed the film “Mississippi Masala” starring Denzel Washington and Sarita Choudhury,recounting the everyday hardships of a family of displaced Ugandan-Indians living in Mississippi.In 1995,she directed the film “The Perez Family” which was the film adaptation of the novel by Christine Bell.The film is a comedy which tells the story of three Cuban refugees who happen to have the same family name,and who pretend to be a family in order to survive in a hostile and unfamiliar American society.In 1996,Mira Nair directed the movie “Kama Sutra:A Tale of Love”,set in 16th century India, demonstrating to the world,especially the West,that the written Indian traditions of love making are not only about “sex”, but that they are mainly about “eroticism”,where every human sense and inner human quality are involved.Mira Nair΄s most popular film is “Monsoon Wedding”,which she completed in 2001,detailing the chaotic atmosphere of a Punjabi Indian wedding (Mira΄s regional Indian origins),exposing both the positive and negative aspects of India΄s social traditions and social values.The film won the prestigious “Golden Lion” award at the Venice Film Festival.Finally,in 2007,she made a short documentary movie on AIDS social awareness,called “Migration” and funded by “The Gates Foundation”.One of her latest and most important cultural projects is “Maisha”,which is a film laboratory established to help East Africans and South Asians to learn how to make films.This film laboratory is located in Kampala,the capital Uganda,her adopted home since 1988,when she porced Jewish American photographer Mitch Epstein and married the black Moslem African Mahmood Mamdani,who originates from the African country of Uganda.Mahmood Mamdani is a professor of film making at Columbia University in New York where with his wife Mira Nair teach in the Film pision of the School of Arts.Mira Nair and Mahmood Mamdani had a son in 1991, Zohran Mamdani,who today attends “a public school” in New York,The Bronx High School of Science,located in a working- class neighborhood.Mira Nair and Mahmood Mamdani created their own film production company,Mirabai Films,so that they would not be absolutely dependent on a Western Globalized Culture(p.2-3.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mira_Nair).

Mira Nair΄s “Salaam Baalak Trust” is an Indian non-profit and non-governmental charity organization,which was founded using the proceeds from the movie “Salaam Bombay” in oder to give shelter and food to the street children who acted in the movie.Today,”Salaam Baalak Trust” has 5 care centers for Indian street children,one which is exclusively for young girls. These centers are located in Mumbai,in New Delhi and in Bhubaneshwar.These 5 children΄s care centers not only protect and support approximately 5,000 children every year,but they also educate them in theatre,dance and puppetry in the Indian Cultural Tradition,providing to these children the opportunities to become self-sufficient professionals (p.1.http://en. wikipedia.org/wiki/Salaam_Baalak_Trust).Now let us compare the priorities and the goals of the mediators of these two different cultures,the Globalized Culture of the makers and distributors of “Slumdog Millionaire” and the Cosmopolitan Culture of the woman director of the film “Salaam Bombay”,Mira Nair.Who are the ones who promote a respect for human life, human dignity and the human social mosaic??I believe that the question is very straightforward,and so should be the answer, simple and to the point!!!!

*globalization-when available goods and services,or social and cultural influences,gradually become similar in all parts of the world

**cosmopolitan-containing or having experience of people and things from different parts of the world.