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If I analyse Danny Boyle’s film "SDM" in the above quoted parameters or yardsticks; the film fits into the category SHIT. But Danny Boy, foreign and a few Indian media and critics, and film / art connoisseurs maintain that the film is an artistic marvel. They quote the scene when the slumkid Jamal Malik, in his birthday suit falls in pool of poo shit (studio set), gets fully drenched but instantly jumps out of it and runs like a hurricane cutting heaps of crazy people surrounding the Indian super star Amitabh Bachchan to get, his autograph when he lands in Helicopter in their slum. Lo and behold, the kid has a ready paper in his hand and succeeds in getting the star’s (thankfully, he was not shown on camera) scribbled sign. This when everyone around is smirking by putting hanky on their nostrils to avoid the stink of excreta drenched kid.

Foreigners and many Indians fell for this as a beautiful reality in the sense as a metaphor that today’s Indians are indeed thrown in a cesspool of shit from which they are escaping for betterment.

According to this perception, the film’s concept was sold like hot cake, attracting rave critical reviews, resulting in bagging four Golden Globe Awards and nominations for Academy Awards in ten (Oscars 2008) categories. However the Indians who have a different perception call it "a shit of a movie" and I subscribe to that.


Depravity and stark poverty in India, including slum living and underbelly existence has not been any new discovery by Danny.

Late Indian filmmakers like Chetan Anand (Neecha Nagar), K A Abbas (Dharti Ke Lal), Bimal Roy (Do Bigha Zameeen, Biraj Bahu) Satyajit Ray (Appu trilogy starting with "Pather Panchali" and "Ashani Sanket”), Ritwick Ghatak (Bari Theke Payliye) , Zia Sarhady (Hum Log), Mehboob Khan (Mother India) had given the world most realistic films depicting depravity, filth and abysmal living conditions of this country. But they never glamorized, over dramatized or glorified that issue. Perhaps that was the reason the juries of Golden Globe or Oscar (Except "Mother India”) awards never considered such films; but these did get recognition from other International festivals like Cannes, Karlovy Vary, Berlin etc.) When Satyajit Ray was acclaimed for his most realistic films on India in many other International Festivals, at the fag end of his film career, he was at least rewarded the "Life time Achievement" Oscar award by the Oscar Jury. Subsequently, present generation film makers also made films reflecting the Indian underbelly environment realistically like Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay), Sudhir Mishra (Dharavi), Rabindra Dharamraj (Chakra), Ashutosh Govarikar (Lagaan), Madhur Bhandarkar (Traffic Signal) etc. While films "Salaam Bombay", "Mother India" and "Lagaan" got honors amongst top five Oscar nominated films (In Foreign category), all had lost the actual award. Forget awards, even the critical reviews were inimical in foreign media, may be because these films were made by Indians.

Contrary to this, the fact is on record that whenever any foreigner made a film on Indian milieu or its dark side, it received rave critical reviews and awards in foreign countries. Examples : Based on Domnique Lapierre book, Rolland Joffe had made "City of Joy" on underbelly of Calcutta, which proved a carnal visual experience for foreigners. Only Sir Richard Attenborough made "Gandhi" (English) had received an Oscar not for the film, but for its Indian costume designer Bhanu Athaiyya. Thus in the Oscar history so far, just two Oscars have come to Indians. The outside world has always lapped up sagas of this third world hunger and misery if they were created by non –Indians.

“SDM" is not only produced by American companies (Celador Films and Fox Star Studios) but also directed by Danny Boyle and scripted by Simon Beaufoy, Cinematographed by Anthony Dod and edited by Chris Dicken who are all Americans for the most important part of a film designing. Associated Indians are the author of Vikas Swarup (a dipomat turned novelist) on whose work "Q & A" is the base story of "SDM”; Music maestro A R Rahman, Lyricist Gulzar, action director Sham Kaushal, Sound Engineer Resul Pookutty and the entire star cast including children and adults. Writer Vikas Swarup has already rued that his novel and characterization has already been changed by the script writer Simon to create a "Hollow of creative melodrama" in showing the filthy side of India (Mumbai), ignoring the real spirited India which is now on an edge of becoming a strong super power in South Asia. Entire marketing and publicity skills of American media was deployed in creating an unprecedented hype in USA to get Golden Globe awards and Oscar nominations. That also created euphoric aura for the film amongst Indian intelligentsia and media and most of them fell in line with a single perception of the underbelly / dark side of India as the most realistic film. Are the winning of golden globe awards or nominations for Oscars, the ultimate criteria of a film for Indian media writers and critics or a sort of intellectual snobbery?

Fortunately, soon the public hue and cry about the negative side of the film was dawned. General opinion was that the characters and situations in the films are the perceptions of only two architects of the film viz; Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy; and it can not be a true representation of India. For reasons known to him, Danny also changed the original name given by Vikas Swarup to Jamal Malik as Ram Mohammad Thomas, giving him a secular identity as an amalgam of three religious communities of India viz; Hindu, Muslim and Christian. But Danny and Simon preferred to change that to only a Muslim identity as Jamal Malik. NGOs working for downtrodden and underbelly India are vociferously agitating (they demonstrated before the house of Anil Kapoor demanding the change in title) against the insult for slum dwellers calling them as "Slumdogs”. Well, the dog will always remain a dog whether it dwells in slum or posh/ luxury areas of Malabar or Pali Hill. So why defile slum dwellers as dogs? Never the less, Indian at large have already rejected the movie by not patronisng the cinema houses in India.


Realism Bogey

The strongest ingredient of the film is quoted "reality and authenticity" disregarding the fact that Danny Boy has taken too many inconceivable and improbable cinematic liberties.

Well, just picking one dark patch of India and presenting it in the fantasized and magical form can not be a representative of entire real or authentic India. No one denies that there is no depravity and poverty in India. There is also a mafia, a begging racket, drug pedaling, human maiming or other kinds of abuses, encroachments, land grabbing, communal clashes etc. etc. But then where it is not in the world? Is America free from such pockets and stigmas? If no, then how it can be a reality of only India?

Film is made to be depicting Dharavi, but the real Dharavi is not shown anywhere. The slums were either of Juhu or Versova (where some real millionaires also live) or made out in the studio sets. If it’s Dharavi, then the most strong point is missing. There are umpteen clusters in Dharavi slums which supports industrial, trade and export activities of India acting as buffers to big industries as their BPO outlets. The cheap skilled workers and artisans are working hard there in creating wealth and contributing to the national economy. In fact entire film smacks of only melodrama, luck, flukes, chance or shady activities. Is that the reality or authencity of India or Mumbai?

Right from the opening shot of Jamal participating in a TV game show of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" as its Hindi avatar "Kaun Banega Crorepati” (KBC), till the last winning shot answer has been all a show of script writer’s fertile imagination in which the director has shown thru’ flash backs as the happenings, incidents in the eighteen year life span of protagonist Jamal, who remembered all that as answers to all tough quiz questions. It was so simple for the director to show this illiterate slum boy, who also looted and cheated, instantly recalled and blurted out as correct answers. How many of us, even intelligentsia know that on a US 1oo dollar currency note, there is the photograph of Banjamin Franklin? He remembered just because years back his kid blind beggar had told him so as if the blind had seen it with his maimed eyes. While interrogating police inspector showing an Indian currency note to Jamal asks him whose photograph the note bears;Jamal could not recognize father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi.

This is indeed a slur on Indians, a shame for us.

Is this non-sense not intentional? If not a currency note of Rs.1000/- which was shown for identification;

Jamal must have seen at least Rs. 5 or Rs. 10 currency note which also carries Gandhi’s photo. Why he could not identify? Is this the proof of of Jamal’s sharp memory or intelligence? Similarly because the blind kid beggar was able to sing the famed song "Darshan do Ghanshyam Nath" melodiously, he fluked out the writer’s name as SURDAS and it came out correct. Just because, his kid brother had used a colt revolver to kill the gangster,he blurred out the answer Samuel Colt who invented the revolver. Now two more pure flukes which turned out to be the ultimate winning answers- when Jamal was asked the name of the missing third musketeer from the famous book of Alexander Duma’s “Three Musketeers”. In flashback Danny did show the incident in which kid Jamal was asked to open the book, but he opened wrongly and could not see what was written. Still he locked the correct answer (Aramis). Again the luck came to his rescue without the flashback incident, when he blindly chose the name of the cricketer (Jack Hobbson) who scored maximum centuries in first class cricket. Even assuming that in the loo he had seen the       "Omenic" letter "B”, as the answer, in actuality the answer turned out to be "D”. Was it a reality or fiction? Mark the distortion of another play of destiny. When slum kid bros. Salim and Jamal grew up,

Salim remained an ugly duckling, but the "Chaiwalla" and KBC contestant Jamal was shown as smooth faced, dashing young man, who was better in persona and talk than any executive in MNC.

To us Indians, entire film appeared to be a "Stale Bhelpuri”, presented as "Maslala Mix Dosa" for westerners. As the foreigners are unaware about the masala formula films of our great entertainers like Manmohan Desai or Prakash Mehra, the film conveniently copied the formula and lifted the scenes form their films. For instance separating brothers and families and reuniting them at the end was a pet "lost and found" formula, involving trains in separation for Desai, which was also present here. While travelling without ticket on the roof of a speeding train, they are thrown down forcibly, they fell, rolled down the rough terrain and in next shot they are at Agra s Tajmahal without any scratch--a la Desai films. The romance and love pangs carried from childhood to adulthood and then expression of that as love to the sweetheart, in adulthood has been shown in umpteen Hindi masala films in the same fashion as was done by Jamal (Dev Patel) to Latika (Frieda Pinto) – a la Mehra style in "Mukaddar ka Sikandar”. The shoe stealing and selling falsely the history of Tajmahal to foreigners was also reminiscent of "Bunti aur Bubly" con tactics. Even the fleeting shots of hero Amitabh Bachchan were lifted from Desai’s "Toofan" and "Coolie" films (If danny had not paid the copyright money to Ketan Desai, he has a fit case to sue him.) This mish mash of Indian formula films, is now well appreciated by the very critics, who had denigraded the originals. Years back, Sony TV channel had had the first "Indian Idol" contest show. In the final episode, when the Mumbai singer Abhijit Sawant was pitted against his formidable rival, almost all Mumbai viewers were shown in euphoria, rooting and bucking for success of Abhijit. Similar euphoria was shown by Danny in the final question answer phase from slum dwellers and Mumbaikars while bucking up Jamal to win.

The entire film, direction and the script is full of scenes which managed to show India in low esteem of foreigners as a work of fiction, fantasy and imagination. There was nothing original, authentic or real in the film.

Besides, a murkier, working of our CALL CENTRES were shown as to how mismanaged and unreliable they are. Till now we had heard of fiddling with confidential datas of clients by a few fraudulent Call Centre employees. Here we notice even an outsider tea vendor illegally hacking and tracking the data base of clients; unauthorisedly sitting on the PC desk seat, answering the client calls, fiddling and shuffling with client names and phones for calling and finding his brother Salim or the girl friend Latika. Jamal, the protagonist illiterate slum boy Chaiwala not only knows English, but speaks in flawless accent, behaves, dresses and walks like a sophisticated person. In Mira Nair’s "Salaam Bombay" the chaiwala boy much looked like an authentic chaiwala.

Other inconsistencies and lack of logic

Why call slum dwellers as "slumdogs? Is it not a deliberate insult as vilification? He could have as well named the film as "Slumboy Millionaire”. The initial selection for hot seat of Jamal also must have been manipulated, if it’s not a pure, simple case of luck or chance? There is no chance of cheating for answers while on hot seat. Then how a case was lodged against him for cheating with the police? Better then take the channel staff to task for leakages and defective software.

Danny’s claim (supported by a few Indian intelligentsia)that the film in fact glorifies, rather than running down slum dwellers, doe not hold any water. In what way? He said the hero slum boy represents the advent of slum dwellers. How? Just by playing a game based on luck or chance, stealing or manipulations or dishing out lies to foreigners as a guide for Tajmahal? No Danny, in that case your protagonist should have been shown to have worked hard with honesty, integrity, entrepreneurship and merit to reach the big league as ordinary Indians do, by contributing to national economy and not by mere winning a million buck game show with sheer luck. And Jamal participated in the game show simply because his girl friend was interested in watching the show and thus she will notice him.

Rahman’s Music

Coming to the musical score touted as "original" for which he won the Golden Globe award and now also nominated for forthcoming Oscar, suffice to say that both songs "Saaya" and "Ringa Ringa" are the rehash of his own earlier tunes. Ditto for his background score.As for the credit given to song "Jai Ho" tune, Rahman appears to have cut-short an antara of original tune of national anthem which is "Jaya He, Jaye He”. When Rahman won the Golden Globe award, he is on record to say "I did not expect to win such a honor”. Well, but as Indians we are all happy if Rahman gets such honor in foreign countries. And how can we forget when Rahman indeed scored original music with his English stage show "Bollywood Dreams" (or is it "Bombay Dreams”?) six years ago? That time the same American media in New York had written very hostile reviews. Now Rahman should have a last laugh. Best of luck for Oscar too.


Cinematography by Anthony Dod was no doubt brilliant. Camera movement s were masterly in capturing the intricate nuances of moods of characters and the locations of slum atmosphere, whether real or studio sets. Editing by Chris Dicken was also razor sharp and effective in maintaining the fast tempo. Hence no dispute about their winning awards. But we as Indians are more happy for the Sound Engineer Resul Pookutty that his pulsating sound mixing has been recognized with a nomination for Oscar


No doubt all performers have done an impressive job including veterans Anil Kapoor, Irfan Khan, Mahesh Manjrekar or the debutants Dev Patel, Freida Pinto etc. But the real stars in the film who were outstanding and natural as slum kids (Today also they live in slums) are Azharuddin Mohammad Ismail, Ayush M Khedekar and tiny girl child Rubiana Ali, who played kid Salim,Jamal and Latika respectively. They all lived their roles literally. But Foreign and Indian media and the film makers appear to have ignored these talents. They all talk about Dev Patel or Freida Pinto as adult Jamal or Latika. To me Dev Patel appeared a misfit for the Jamal’s character as the type of persona, ruggedness of eighteen years struggle and tenacity of the character was missing in Dev, while Freida had a miniscule role to play. Now, there are allegations in Indian media that these children have been exploited by Danny Boyle and were not even paid properly.

Now just to balance my analytical criticism of "SDM" quoted below are few statements and reactions of celebrities and commoners, whether Indians or foreigners appeared in the media about "SDM”:-

“I do wonder why the Western audience essentially recognizes the poverty of India. For most of them; we live in the old days of fakirs and snake charmers. The aesthetics of our great literary works and paintings are still to be understood by them. If Shelley can be quoted by them, why don’t they quote the great Kalidas as well? The critics in west show scant or no regard for Indian aesthetics”

(M F Hussain in HT Café)

"I recently went on tour of Dharavi. I could learn a lot from people in the slums. They have a sense of community that is way stronger than what we civilized people have. Every single smile is returned. It is positive community. The movie has highlighted only the negatives”

(Sam Cameron – an UK tourist who visited India after watching "SDM”— DNA report)

A tour operator K Poojary screened a DVD of "SDM"in Dharavi. He narrated "I saw many disappointed faces as soon as the film title flashed. 15 yr old boy V Shinde asked me why this movie is called "Slumdog”. Dog means Kutta—right? But the kids shown here are just like us- normal. Most of us don’t like to talk about riots but the film has highlighted them”

(DNA Report – 25 Jan.)

“This is with reference to "Dharavi’s real slumdog stories" (HT 18 Jan.). I am disappointed to note that your paper supports jingoism and rhetoric as depicted in the film. I believe, Dharavi is a symbol of only Mumbai’s shame. it is unfortunate that educated people continue to hold out underbelly of the city as if this is the city itself. Please, there is no need to eulogize a national shame"

(-- Amod Khare –HT 25 Jan.)

“There is more to Mumbai and India than slums.This white man or the Indian author has chosen to glorify the poverty and depraved life of slums. The slums in Mumbai or the lepers in Kolkata neither constitute India nor nullify its greatness”.

(--Sangitha --HT 25 Jan.)

“Slumdog Millionaire’s acclaim and Oscar nominations do not mean much to us. Few know what Dharavi is. I believe that this buzz is only the work of intellectuals, people who know little about our life but love commenting on it. "Slumdog" may go down as just another sketchy portrayal that cashes in on Dharavi’s versatility.

(Bhau Korde – member Dharavi mohalla committee in "DNA”)

The film is an outsider’s perspective packed with melodrama. The setting and colors are interesting. world is lapping up the music because it’s Rahman’s work in a foreign production. That’s all”

(Parashar Baruah - a film maker and photographer "DNA”)

“Vikas Swarup, although is besotted by the runaway success of the film based on his novel Q & A, he felt a writer’s pang. Comparing Danny Boyle’s screen adaptation of his book he said "While Q & A is iconic "Slumdog" is evocative. script writer Simon Beaufoy had promised me that he will stick to the soul of the book, but he has mangled with the body. the film makers have taken a lot of liberties”.

(PTI report in DNA)

"What I find unusual about  "Slumdog Millionaire" is the euphoria in India. To begin with, except for Rahman’s three oscar nods—with at least one newspaper calling him, much to his embarrassment, "Mozart of Madras”—its Mumbai setting, and a few Indian actors, there is nothing Indian about this film; Certainly not the treatment. And there have been hundreds of Indian movies shot in Switzerland or Japan or Holland, sometimes with foreign actors. Can we call them Swiss, Japanese or Dutch films?”

Mr. Gautaman Bhaskaran – An International film analyst Wrote on 24 th Jan.09 in  "Featured features" on web network:

(This entire analytical review is Written and complied by Mohan Siroya)

Written by: 

Mohan Siroya


Now even films in India are made with a foreign audiance in mind. Winnig an Oscar seems to have become more relevant than anything else...even for someone like Aamir Khan who shuns Indian awards! "Lagaan" was a big (and loooooooooong) joke. I could not sit through even half of it despite several attempts. Haven"t seen "Slumdog...", but believe me , I"ll prefer a "Welcome to Sajjanpur" rather than "Slumdog" any day.
I have heard for the film SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE.I have not seen the movie yet.But looking the news in various papers/magazines and the information I got from many people, I can say your viewpoints written in your article are acceptable to me.You have narrated almost all good and bad things in the movie. Very good review.
read the reviews and their take on this much reviewed movie. What I feel it is not an Indian movie.. It is an american sponsored English (UK ) movie made for world audience. So, we deplore it"s depiction of Mumbai slums.. But we cannot ignore the slums and brush them under carpet. So, let them watch what they think is Mumbai.. What all these reviewers say is over reaction to a movie.. it did not say it is showing mumbai or India.. it is a creative , fare , based on underbelly of the Maximum city mumbai.. It is a story, a creative story of a boy who thinks above his real state of nothing to achieve something he desires. questionong the probabilities in the story.. there is no base, as a director takes artistic freedom for his story to be eleveted. It is basically ,a movie about human spirit and love in extreme poverty conditions too.. That is how the Academy audience viewed it, and that is why it has reaped so many awards.. We are just being over sensitive, to the reality.. Dont we know of our slums. dont we pass slums covering our noses and forget the moment we pass over them wishing and forgetting their existence? Dont we close our windows to begging boys, as we know they are a well acted begging scenes? Dont we see young girls ,ready to sell anything at VT, as we pass by to catch trains to our comfort homes? we are just hypocrites, pointing fingers at some odd director, who pictures them, and glorifies them, when we are all trying to forget them or sweep them under carpets.. About the movies made by Indian directors, they are all made for Indian audience, but this movie is made for world audience.. Who would like to see sme thing real, some thing shocking, some awakening, some poverty , some real depths of underbelly slums, some dreams, some action, some music, some love in lives of ordinary people.. Not any famous actors, not any make up laden faces, not any trickt animations, not any intelligent scripts, Just ordinary faces living in filth, but dreaming big,, that is the true spirit of the movie ..please Indians.. Come out of the cocooned unreal world of box, where we wish to be there for eternity. I am not supporting or glorifying Danny Boyle, but what is wrong in appreciating a movie, which won 8 oscars.. Stop seeing everything with INDIAN glasses.. if you want to be a proud Indian, there are other ways, instead of commenting on a movie, made for masses... made for world masses...
I am surprised that no one has talked about the tune of "Jai Ho", which was copted from Mozart"s symphony #40 in g minor. This was earlier copied in an Indian film song "Itnana mujh se tu.." sung by Talat Mahmood (I love that song in spite of the plagerisation). And the second edition of the copy wins an Oscar!!!

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