“What movie are you guys seeing?” asked J., a Indian friend of The Daughter.
“We’re going to see Slumdog Millionaire,” said The Daughter.
“Don’t see that – it makes India look so bad!” said J.
It turns out that J. wasn’t the only Indian who didn’t think that Slumdog Millionaire was golden, despite the movie winning four Golden Globes and having ten Academy Award nominations.
This article from the Los Angles Times says that a number of Indians aren’t happy with the portrayal of India in the movie directed by Briton Danny Boyle and was based on a book by Vikas Swarup; critics point out that it is a long line of foreign films portraying India in a similarly negatively light, such as Salaam Bombay and City of Joy. I remember a similar controversy over Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom over negative portrayals of Indians.
In the larger context, there is a long tradition of negative and distorted portrayals of Asians and Asian cultures by Western art and entertainment, ranging from the opera Madame Butterfly to the controversy over the casting of the Avatar movie. Many questions come to mind also. Are portrayals of a culture by someone outside of that culture somehow less valid than from someone outside of it? Would having an Indian director of Slumdog Millionaire make it somehow more authentic?
Ironically, when The Daughter asked J. one more time if she wanted to see Slumdog Millionaire with her, J replied that she already had seen it!