Judging by the deluge of media coverage the new feature film Slumdog Millionaire released in India on January 23 has received, one could hardly be faulted for concluding that it’s an Indian production. Newspapers and magazines have gone to town, and dimpling television news anchors have given the film and its director, actors, music director and all others associated, saturation coverage which must have saved the producers a bundle by way of advertising expenditure.
But while the Indian media has assumed ownership of this hit movie which has been nominated for ten Hollywood Oscar awards, the truth is it’s a British production with the major functions of producer, director, screenplay etc discharged by Brits, and Indians performing under their supervision — an inconvenient truth which has been gratuitously overlooked. And even as it’s being celebrated as a huge Indian triumph by the great Indian middle class living in the illusory Shining India bubble, Slumdog rubbishes post-independence India’s national development effort and super-power aspirations. In particular this film is a clever put-down of the country’s self-serving establishment, which has done precious little to improve the pathetic living conditions of the poor majority ekeing out slumdog lives within spitting distance of the country’s five-star islands of affluence.
Coterminously Slumdog is also a subtle put-down of the great Indian middle class. It serves as an overdue reminder to this country’s greedy, uncaring and me-first middle class that it’s in breach of independent India’s implicit social contract under which in exchange for the plethora of subsidies the poor provide to the middle class (electricity, water, higher education), the latter is obliged to ameliorate their living conditions. Yet ironically instead of acknowledging this indictment, the country’s lumpen bourgeoisie is celebrating this slap in the face as a great Shining India triumph. We are like that only.