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The “Slumdog" Phenomenon

The “Slumdog" Phenomenon: A Critical Anthology

Edited by Ajay Gehlawat
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Anthem Press
Pages: 242
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1gxpc01
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  • Book Info
    The “Slumdog" Phenomenon
    Book Description:

    Featuring a dynamic combination of landmark essays by leading critics and theorists, “The ‘Slumdog’ Phenomenon: A Critical Anthology" addresses multiple issues relating to “Slumdog Millionaire," providing new ways of looking at this controversial film.

    eISBN: 978-0-85728-295-8
    Subjects: Film Studies
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Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations
  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS (pp. vii-x)
  4. LIST OF FIGURES (pp. xi-xii)
  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction THE SLUMDOG PHENOMENON (pp. xv-xxiv)
    Ajay Gehlawat

    It seems impossible to begin any discussion ofSlumdog Millionaire(2008, hereafterSlumdog) without immediately mentioning how successful and controversial it has been – how many awards it has garnered,¹ how many cultural gurus have weighed in with damnation or praise (in some cases, damnation and then praise²) regarding its depictions of the slum, of India, its relationships with Bollywood, and its varying – in some cases, wildly divergent – receptions around the world. Yet the impossibility of avoiding such a discourse itself illuminates a salient point, namely, that theSlumdogphenomenon is precisely that – something viewed by so many people and resulting...

  7. SLUMDOG AND THE NATION
    • Chapter 1 NATIONAL ALLEGORY (pp. 3-8)
      Brian Larkin

      In January 2009, Amitabh Bachchan, the lion of Indian cinema, reacted on his blog to the increasing success of the filmSlumdog Millionairewith a caution. Tapping into an anxiety about how India is represented abroad, he asserted: “If SM [Slumdog Millionaire] projects India as Third World dirty underbelly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots, let it be known that a murky under belly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations.”¹ Bachchan intensified a furious controversy both inside india and abroad over whether the film was a form of “poverty porn,”² whether it...

    • Chapter 2 SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE AND THE EMERGING CENTRALITY OF INDIA (pp. 9-28)
      Sharmila Mukherjee

      Halfway through Danny Boyle’s 2008 magnum opus,Slumdog Millionaire, a remarkable imperial gloating comes from Salim Malik, the “slumdog” turned hip and rich factotum of billionaire gangster Javed Khan. In a scene of reunion between the film’s two brothers as young adults, Salim, perched cockily atop the ramparts of an unfinished luxury condominium complex in the heart of metropolitan Mumbai, crows preeningly to his younger sibling Jamal about the emerging centrality of twenty-first century India in the global economy, and of his own omphalic position within this Indo-centric world. As he preens, his gaze sweeps across the blossoming Mumbai skyline...

    • Chapter 3 SLUMLORD AESTHETICS AND THE QUESTION OF INDIAN POVERTY (pp. 29-38)
      Nandini Chandra

      In October 2011, Sushil Kumar, a computer operator from Motihari with a salary of 6,000 rupees, won five crore rupees onKaun Banega Crorepati?(henceforthKBC), the Indian version ofWho Wants to Be a Millionaire?, the original British quiz show which doubles up as a reality show in following the fortunes of its participants. The press repeatedly described him as the real-life Jamal Malik, the hero ofSlumdog Millionaire(henceforthSDM), in what is perceived to be a similar fairytale turnaround. However, in the less than fairytale plot of his life, the money will be used to build a...

    • Chapter 4 WATCHING TIME: SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE AND NATIONAL ONTOLOGY (pp. 39-50)
      Lakshmi Padmanabhan

      In 2009, theSunday Timesreported that one of the child actors of the filmSlumdog Millionaire(hereafterSlumdog), Rubina Ali, was to be illegally sold to pay for her family’s livelihood. Rubina’s uncle described her as an “Oscar child,” justifying the higher price they had asked for, and permanently marking her body as a part of the film she had acted in the year before. This link made between Rubina andSlumdogmaterially embodies the links that I will trace through this chapter. Using Amit Rai’s arguments on media assemblages and Brian Massumi’s arguments on ontology and temporality, I...

  8. SLUMDOG AND THE SLUM
    • Chapter 5 SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE AND EPISTEMOLOGIES OF THE CITY (pp. 53-68)
      Ulka Aanjaria and Jonathan Shapiro Anjaria

      The swirl of excitement, commentary and controversy surrounding the filmSlumdog Millionaire(dir. Danny Boyle, 2008) in India and elsewhere calls for a careful analysis of the possibilities and pitfalls of transnational cultural production. Alternatively seen as a celebration of urban India’s global coming-of-age, an affront to cultural sensibilities, a sign of neoliberal hegemony or superficial cinematic diversion,Slumdoghas become one of the most controversial films to sweep the Academy Awards, winning eight out of its ten nominations. The film has spawned hundreds of news articles, reviews and blog entries, along with vigorous academic debate – of which this current...

    • Chapter 6 A MILLION DOLLAR EXIT FROM THE SLUM-WORLD: SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE’S TROUBLING FORMULA FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE (pp. 69-90)

      Soon upon its release in December 2008,Slumdog Millionaire(hereafterSlumdog), a rags-to-riches story about a fictional Mumbai slum dweller, Jamal Malik, took its place among the most celebrated films of our times. Riding on a wave of rave reviews, the film won Hollywood’s highest tribute in February 2009, the Academy Award for Best Picture, along with seven more Oscars, including one for British filmmaker Danny Boyle as Best Director. The film earned effusive praise not only for being an enjoyable work of fiction, which it arguably is, but for its potential to give voice to poor and marginalized children...

    • Chapter 7 SLUMDOGS AND MILLIONAIRES: FACTS AND FICTIONS OF INDIAN (UNDER) DEVELOPMENT (pp. 91-106)
      Snehal Shingavi

      Much ink has been spilled on the differences between Vikas Swarup’s Q & A (2005) and the movie that was based on it, Danny Boyle’sSlumdog Millionaire(2008). The differences are important and substantial enough that repeatedly, when interviewed, Swarup was asked to explain whether or not he was jarred (as presumably were the interviewers) by the thinness of the relationship between the novel and its cinematic offspring. One such conversation was recorded in theGuardian, for instance:

      They changed the title from Q & A toSlumdog Millionaire. (“That made a lot of sense,” says Swarup.) They changed the...

  9. SLUMDOG AND BOLLYWOOD
    • Chapter 8 SLUMDOGS, COOLIES AND GANGSTERS: AMITABH BACHCHAN AND THE LEGACY OF 1970s BOLLYWOOD IN SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (pp. 109-120)
      Claus Tieber

      The representation of India in Indian and in Western cinema has always been a heavily discussed issue. One of India’s most famous film stars, Nargis, argued that director Satyajit Ray would deliver poverty to the West, when instead he should produce images of a modern India: “[Pather Panchali] does not represent India’s poverty in its true form […] It is not a correct image of India.”¹ Ray, on the other hand, attacked the Hindi cinema that Nargis so famously represented:

      India took one of the greatest inventions of the West with most far-reaching artistic potential, and promptly cut it to...

    • Chapter 9 “IT IS WRITTEN” (IN INVISIBLE INK): SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE’S SFX AND THE REALIST OVERWRITING OF BOLLYWOOD SPECTACLE (pp. 121-140)
      Samhita Sunya

      Identifying the “street urchin film” as a transnational cinematic genre that encompasses earlier films likeShoeshine(dir. De Sica, 1946) andOliver Twist(dir. Lean, 1948), João Luiz Vieira notes that in recent years, this genre has come to hinge itself upon the spectacle of urban filth, poverty, and criminality that envelops abject, destitute youth rendered within an exoticized third world.¹ In the contemporary space of the “street urchin film,” the mise-en-scene of the Latin Americanfavelabecomes interchangeable with that of the Asian slum – an equation facilitated by a common denominator of spectacular cinematic alterity that wholly dislocates the...

  10. SLUMDOG’S RECEPTIONS
    • Chapter 10 WHY THE SUN SHINES ON SLUMDOG (pp. 143-148)
      Anandam Kavoori

      I originally wrote this soon after the Oscar awards in 2009, hounded by two questions: WhySlumdog Millionaire? Why now? This essay examines the recent success ofSlumdog Millionaire(hereafterSlumdog) by undertaking acontextualreading of the film based on its expected appeal for American audiences (where the author resides). It recommends that we readSlumdogas the arrival of a specific kind of cultural hybridity, a process begun in earlier texts. It then outlines how such a reading of hybridity must be placed within three interrelated contexts of American political, economic and social life that helped the film...

    • Chapter 11 SLUMDOG CELEBRITIES (pp. 149-154)
      Priya Jaikumar

      Three child actors from British director Danny Boyle’sSlumdog Millionaire(hereafterSlumdog) (2008) walked the red carpet at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles, for the Oscar ceremony on 22 February 2009. The celebrated feelgood film about a boy from the slums of Mumbai, India, swept the Oscars. It won in eight categories, taking home the award for best motion picture and best director of the year. In what was equally meaningful to Indians, it won for best original song and score, credited to A. R. Rahman and Gulzar, veteran composers of India’s mainstream film industry. It was a picture...

    • Chapter 12 SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE AND THE NEW MIDDLEBROW (pp. 155-162)
      Robert Koehler

      Danny Boyle’sSlumdog Millionaireis the film of the moment for the “new middlebrow” – the audience able to perceive momentous changes in the world and culture when they’re reported in, say, the New York Times , but that wouldn’t have the slightest clue that the most thrilling new rushes of creative filmmaking since the nouvelle vague originate in the apartments and editing rooms of Manila, Kuala Lumpur, Barcelona and Buenos Aires. This new middlebrow has a fresh object of adoration in Boyle’s entertainment, since it quite conveniently summarizes and expresses so many wishes, hopes and romantic yearnings of the West...

    • Chapter 13 SLUMDOG COMPRADOR: COMING TO TERMS WITH THE SLUMDOG PHENOMENON (pp. 163-178)
      Ajay Gehlawat

      Every time a film about India made by a Western director gains critical acclaim in the West, two related phenomena seem to also occur: the greatest hits of negative stereotypes are brought out and served up in the film (think poverty, squalor and general backwardness), even as the “usual suspects” emerge to tout its merits. I am referring, of course, to the comprador class of critics; those native-born, self-styled authorities who are summoned to validate the authenticity of the work at hand and to defend it against the potential critiques of their brethren. With the Oscar winner,Slumdog Millionaire(2008),...

    • Chapter 14 THE LIFE-CYCLE OF SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE ON THE WEB (pp. 179-200)
      Thomas Elsaesser and Warren Buckland

      In the spring of 2009, Thomas Elsaesser asked his graduate seminar to jointly undertake a specific case study – of the British made, Hollywood-produced, India-claimed, surprise hitSlumdog Millionaire(2008) – in order to reconstruct the various discourses that are involved in locating and stabilizing the authorial, generic, ideological and national “identities” for a contemporary independent film of the kind that shows up at film festivals and makes up the loose category of “world cinema.” In this case, the seminar chose a film that started its life as an underdog but gradually emerged as a festival favorite. First spurned by the majors,...

  11. Conclusion JAI WHO? (pp. 201-204)
    Ajay Gehlawat

    Riding onSlumdog Millionaire’s wave of success, the award winning Indian composer A. R. Rahman launched his “Jai Ho” world tour in 2010. This tour, whose Hindi title (meaning, “Let there be victory”) stems from Rahman’s Oscar-winning song featured duringSlumdog’s end credits sequence, kicked off in June at the Nassau Coliseum in New York and went on to several cities in the US, the UK, Canada and South Africa, featuring twenty-three playback singers from India, along with multiple dancers and musicians. As was the case withSlumdog, this tour was a highly successful event, with many of the concert...

  12. SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY (pp. 205-210)
  13. FILMS CITED (pp. 211-212)
  14. INDEX (pp. 213-218)