Friday, February 27, 2009

Defense of Slumdog 

I disagree with Scats' take on Slumdog Millionaire. Here is my case for the film:

As in the movie Y Tu Mama Tambien, the seemingly incidental social oppression that Scats sketches that is in fact the center of the film. Why, then, the cloying and forced love story, and the giddy dance number at the end?

One clue is in the text that begins and ends the film: "it is written." This should not be read as some new age mumbo-jumbo, but a reference to the -form- of the film itself-- written, fiction-- and to that of popular films that are indeed intended to be "feelgood" spectacle. But how can we possibly feel good about the world we see here? And how does the protagonist possibly turn out ok? How could such insanely improbable fortune be bestowed upon a child of the slums? ONLY if it is "written"-- only in fiction.

My reading of SM is that its actual subject is the role of Bollywood in Mumbai and India in general, in providing fantasies for a population largely beset by the nightmares of poverty, corruption and crime. Boyle is constantly signaling that what we are watching is completely impossible. To me the film is a tragedy that incorporates the power of popular culture into its expose of a culture, its fantasies, and the fantasies we might want to project upon it.


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