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A couple of weeks ago I wrote something entitled Slumdog Millionaire Is Not A Joyous Celebration of Indian Culture, in which I railed against the bizarre notion that this is a film which somehow celebrates the beauty of Indian life. The response to what I wrote was instantaneous, passionate, and split right down the middle. I received dozens of emails from Indians living both here in American and in India. Their reaction to what I wrote was, almost entirely, determined by where they lived. Indian Americans praised the film as every bit ads advertised, Indian nationals seemed outraged by the film, some even going so far as to condemn it as racist.
Now it seems the outrage of India’s people wasn’t localized to my inbox. The AP is reporting that residents of the Mumbai slums depicted in the film protested it on Thursday, calling the Oscar nominated movie’s title “insulting”. Wait, it’s just the title they have a problem with?
This smells like another case of manufactured outrage from people who haven’t seen the movie. The protest was organized by a social activist and there’s already talk of a lawsuit. I’m completely sympathetic to the anger expressed by many Indians over the negative portrayal of Indian culture in the film, but bitching over the title is pathetically superficial and completely misguided. “I am poor, but don't call me slumdog,” said one protestor being interviewed by the AP. If that protestor had seen the movie, she’d know that the title is not an insult directed at poverty-stricken Indians, but something taken from one of the insults thrown at the movie’s heroic character by an insensitive and morally bankrupt culture. It’s an indictment of the way India treats its poor, not an indictment of the poor themselves.
If you’re Indian, I think you may actually have a good reason to protest Slumdog. Unfortunately, the movie’s title isn’t it. Try again Indians. Find a better reason. Here's a hint: Try some of these.