I just saw Slumdog Millionaire last night. You would have to be an idiot to argue that this movie is not amazing. It is. I loved it. But watching the credits, I had some questions. Why were the producer (Christian Colson), director (Danny Boyle) and screenwriter (Simon Beaufoy) all white Westerners for a movie based on an Indian novel, set in India, and acted by an all-Indian cast?
As in, why are Westerners controlling how Indians (actors and writers) represent themselves to the West and to themselves (this film is set to be released in India in January)? Hmm, why is the term “Orientalism” leaping to mind?
I also have some questions about the NYT article Extreme Mumbai, Without Bollywood’s Filtered Lens by Somini Sengupta. I mean why don’t we start with the title of this article, with its implicit suggestion that the English Danny Boyle can somehow represent India more authentically than it represents itself in its own film industry? What the hell is that?
The review isn’t completely wretched, but it is still filled with a little of the exoticism that often accompanies the gaze of Western countries towards the East. (Yes, I am aware that Sengupta is Indian, but she has been criticized for her overly Westernized viewpoints before.) Take her ending words here:
Whatever you call it, Mumbai or Bombay is not a city that can be manufactured on a set, Mr. Boyle maintained. It is not distinguished by its architecture, but by its atmosphere, its noise. “Slumdog Millionaire” captures all of that, though because it is a movie, it misses one thing that truly distinguishes Mumbai, the way it smells: part drying fish, part human waste.
Well it may be true that many parts of Mumbai smell like human waste, Jesus Christ, hasn’t it been a common meme in the West for centuries now to obsess over the strange smells of “the Orient”?