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

A few friends and even some youg students of mine ,suggested that I should go and see “Slumdog Millionaire”,the movie, because they not only thought it was a very entertaining movie but that it also had great originality in its story and production.They especially emphasized the fact that many of the young Indian children who acted as real stars in the movie ,were not professional actors but ordinary youngsters who had been living all their lives in the slum areas of Mumbai or Bombay.

During the last 10 to 15 years,I have rarely watched movies,either at the movie theatre or at home.There is really very little to see ,except for special technical effects,exaggerated themes,violence for the sake of violence(it sells) and everyday “virtual reality” stories such as the ones we have been bombarded with, these last two decades, by American Television-popular t.v.serials such as “Friends” and “Sex and the city”.To be fair ,there have also been some very powerful and creative movies which have been able to communicate “effectively” and “metaphorically” the “human anguish” and the “human existential crisis” of our times.Movies such as “American Beauty” and the modern mythological trilogy of “Lord of the Rings”.Yet these “artistic masterpieces” represent but a fraction, compared with the “movie trash” which is produced worldwide,and especially in the United States.”Movie trash” which disorient the audiences concerning the complexities of life and the importance of human creativity at all levels.

I finally went and saw “Slumdog Millionaire”,just after it had won 8 Oscars,the most important ones being for best movie,best direction,best script and best music score.When I first watched the movie,I was really very impressed,and I have to admit that the movie was very entertaining.I was impressed by the “concept” of the story,the acting of the young Indian children,the realism in the depiction of the harsh living conditions of the young street kids,growing up in absolute poverty and desperation,and of course I was very impressed by the ending of the movie,where the combination of a wonderful music score,an ingenious choreography and a positive conclusion to romantic love,gave an optimistic and spirited touch to a “grim story”.Yet as time went by, and I started to think more objectively about the movie -this in combination with the apocalyptic news of how the young Indian actors had been exploited financially by the Western producers of the movie,made me realize how easy it is to fall victim to “Cultural Globalization”. “Consciously” believing that what you have just watched is truly representative of a culture,in this case the Indian culture,while in reality it is a “concoction” of stereotype but successful cinematographic prescriptions for a movie to sell well worldwide,bringing in very high profits for the producers and the distributors.It is therefore not so very surprising that this “supposedly” realistic and humanistic movie picture of every day social realities of Indians, was directed by a British person,Danny Boyle,was produced by an American,Christian Colson,while the distributors were “Fox Searchlight”,a very powerful media enterprise based in the United States.”Cultural Globalization” is “western Cultural Colonialism”,and all parties involved ,director,producer and distributors,did their utmost to substantiate this fact,as we shall observe analysing various facts,parameters and events related directly to this particular movie.

Movie critics have pointed out that even though Danny Boyle and Christian Colson had as their main objective to describe the life course of “street kids” coming from the slum areas of Mumbai,they also wanted their movie to be a tribute to Bollywood,India΄s movie industry which produces the greatest number of full-length movies in the world(www. globalpost.com).Yet, as everyone knows,Bollywood is the Indian version of “virtual reality”, and of course a great advocate and promoter of “Western Cultural Globalization” where what counts as dogma is human “self centeredness” or “egocentrism”;social status,financial power and the means(any means) to achieve both in order to feel “successful” and “contented” in life.

As one takes a closer look at the essentials of the movie story,one soon realizes that what comes out, has very little to do with the mosaic,the richness and the complexities of Indian culture,which has a history of at least 6,000 years, 5,000 years more than Western European Culture.Yes,the story has to do with the lives of extremely poor and abandoned children,growing up in the slum areas of Mumbai,but those types of urban slum areas are everywhere around the world, especially in the developing countries.I think that most of these, are modern creations of a “highly globalized world market system” which requires “absolutely” cheap human labour within industrialized urban centers;it΄s its life blood. Whose creation is this “highly globalized market system” and who still has a “tight control” over it?

The second vital parameter of the story is the fact that it mainly revolves around the young man Jamal(the street kid who evolved),an Indian Muslim,who like his younger brother Salim and their childhood girlfriend Latika,was born in a Mumbai slum area,grew up as a street beggar and a street thief,but eventually became a simple office clerk,not a “hoodlum” like his younger brother Salim.The story revolves around Jamal,because he is the one who tries his luck at becoming rich,playing in a t.v. game show called,”Who Wants to be a millionaire?”.A type of t.v. game show created in the 1950s and 1960s by American Television,reflecting the hopes and expectatins of Americans then,and not of any other peoples.Of course today,this American Dream ,to become a millionaire with “the minimum of effort”,has become the “virtual dream” of almost every inhabitant on this earth.This world phenomenon has been achieved through “Cultural Globalization”,meaning through “Hollywood” movies,through American t.v. soap operas,through American advertising,and of course through American t.v. game shows which are bought(t.v. rights) and adapted by television production companies in many countries for local consumption.The “ideology” behind t.v. game shows ,allowing someone to win “a lot of money” with “very little sweat”, has very little to do with Indian culture and the Indian “persona” traditionally,as poor as one may be.The philosophical core of Hindu culture is the “karma”,which in simple language means “to accept and appreciate what you have,and not to trespass the limits set by life;otherwise you will lose everything.”

Third,I am absolutely certain that most Indians living in slums in the various urban centers of India,and who represent the majority of the urban population in the country(www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009),don΄t live as scavengers, as predators or as “dogs”(slumdog) in order to survive.If that were true,the Indian cultural mosaic,with its tens of different languages and its hundreds of traditions, would never have survived.This stigma of social inferiority is pure Western cultural “slander” and “racism”.

*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 many different parts of the world.