Slumdog Millionaire: I Just Don’t Get It

I realize this movie is getting a lot of attention from the various awards groups, but I am having a hard time understanding what I just watched.

First, the movie seems to be about Indians. Yet, oddly, not one of the Indians ever wears one of those cool feather headdresses. What kind of Indian doesn’t wear feathers at least once in awhile? And where were all of the casinos? The two go hand in hand these days.

In the beginning of the movie, the kids are playing in some really run down, destitute area. My guess is that it is Philly or East St. Louis. Again, having been to both places, I know Indians don’t live there….they live on a reservation. Just bad homework done by the film makers.

Next, the Indians are speaking some sort of weird language throughout the movie. Now, to be fair, they have word captions on the screen but they move along at a lightening fast pace. You have to be some sort of speed reader just to keep up! What good is a movie where you can’t understand what they are saying? It sounded like Latin which, like everything else in this movie, made no sense at all.

Then, they have some scenes where they are supposed to be on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” Unless Regis Philbin has dense black hair, a pseudo beard and sports a 3 carat diamond earring, the dude looked nothing like Regis! My God, could you not find an old white guy to play the part? Plus he kept pronouncing “millionaire” by saying “millon-air”. How can you host a show, even if it is make believe, when you can’t even say the name of the show?

Then, out of nowhere, one of the characters is sent to Gitmo. WTF? The guy is not a terrorist…why send him there? By the way, they never say it is Gitmo, but you can tell because they hook up battery cables to the guy’s toes. We don’t play that in America. Torturing is for countries where the people have brown skin.

Finally, at the very end of the movie, all of the people at the train station break out into some sort of dance. The movie just morphs into a Michael Jackson video in the blink of an eye. My son looks at me and says, “Pa-paw, what the hell are them injuns doin’ now?” I didn’t know what to say so I winged it and said that they were all gay and couldn’t contain themselves any longer. They just had to burst into dance at some point!

Anyway, what a crazy movie. I don’t understand what the hell it was about but at least I can say I saw it. Next, I think I am going to watch that movie about that guy Benjamin that makes buttons. Another movie that sounds dumb as hell but I like to stay current.

Oh, one more thing that makes absolutely no sense. On the millionaire show, they don’t play for dollars…they play for rubies! The guy is like, “And now you play for 10,000 rubies!” As if! Rubies are way more expensive than dollars so that is just stupid. Just had to get that off of my chest.

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42 Responses to Slumdog Millionaire: I Just Don’t Get It

  1. womaninblack says:

    I am concerned with director Danny Boyle’s obsession with seeing the characters in his films wading around in excrement. Is it, do you think, an extended metaphor? If so, this is by far the cleverest part of the entire film.

    • tannerleah says:

      womaninblack – Ah…the poopy scene. Isn’t there a sexual poopy fetish called scatology or something? Maybe he has that. Or maybe he is saying that to get what we really want in life, we must be willing to go to any lengths. Or maybe he just thought it would be really funny to see a little kid covered in poop.

      I am getting a headache.

  2. elizabeth3hersh says:

    Womaninblack asks if the wading in shit scene is metaphorical. Good question. Lower caste Indians are inextricably wedded to jobs involving excrement and for some, it provides their only means of livelihood. Members of the lowest caste (the dalits) mix fresh buffalo dung with straw into patties which they use to cook with (that must make for some robust curry) . These dung cakes account for a fifth of the energy use in rural India! Other dalits manually remove waste from both public restrooms and open sewers. Although Slumdog did not specifically address the dalits, the outhouse scene immerses you into their cesspool lives. It is really astonishing how rapidly India is moving in becoming a superpower.

    TL, would love to hear more of your movie “critiques”.

  3. elizabeth3hersh says:

    I’ve known about the dalits for decades and have always found India’s caste system fascinating and grossly unfair as you are born into it and there is no way out (unlike America where you can emerge from the ghetto to become a CEO [theoretically]). It was outlawed in 1950, but is still widely practiced. I recently watched a show called “Cooking in the Danger Zone” on LinkTV (my favorite TV channel) and the host actually participated in the molding of the dung patties with his bare hands. I thought that was noble of him. He explained how they use the patties as a fuel source for cooking. We would all be well served to read more and watch some educational TV to see how the rest of the world lives. No?

    • tannerleah says:

      No. Watching a guy make dung patties is the kind of knowledge that I am willing to blissfully ignore. Now, if those same hands are making my double cheesburger without being washed first, then, yeah, I need to know.

  4. I am indian. born in the caste system. everyone in my family has been of the same caste since forever. half of my grand parents (one on each side) was born in villages in india (the other 2 being born in Johannesburg, South Africa and a small town in Zimbabwe), and all my great grandparents were born in rural India. what does this mean? i feel like i have some validity in being able to comment on social/cultural/caste issues in india. and i thought this movie was a pretty pathetic representation of pretty much everything it tried to represent. for powerful social commentary on poverty and hope for people living in extreme situations, PLEASE watch Tsotsi.

    this movie sucked. like 2 scenes touched on real social issues in the country – the one where the little girl is in the rain and the boys were in the tunnel (thought that whole scene was touching and beautiful) and the one where they mutilate the little boy (thought that was a pretty poweful visual of something that happens to lots of children in Asia trapped in poverty and the begging industry). everything else was a glamorized mockery of india and different issues going on in india.

    this movie was stupid. i hated it.

    • tannerleah says:

      Obamaisamerica – But Liz watched a bunch of TV shows about India. Are you sure that doesn’t make her more of an expert?

      One of my problems with this movie, like many movies, is how easy they all find each other. I can’t find the guy I am looking for at a restaurant but they can find each other all over India, or a train station, with no problem at all. It is just silly.

      I just knew that dance scene in the train station was fake!

  5. elizabeth3hersh says:

    Obama Is America!-the movie contrasts two extremes in India: abject poverty on a scale not seen in America and the new India that in emerging (think Bangalore). How is that juxtaposition of extremes not fascinating? How is this movie different than a Bollywood production? It’s just entertainment. Yet, there are kernels of truth and reality interspersed throughout. And thank you for pointing out the intentional maiming in the begging industry. Everyone should know about that barbaric practice. P.S. Can you tell me how to make an authentic tasting samosa?

    • tannerleah says:

      Liz – One more thing. What kind of racist comment is, “Can you tell me how to make an authentic tasting samosa?” Do you walk up to black strangers and ask them for a good fried chicken recipe? Good God, woman…get some control.

      By the way, how do I make a really good fazuelo. Your people eat those, don’t they?

  6. if the movie stuck to being based on cheesy love/action scenes with inexplicable coincidences, it might have been good. in fact, it might even have been as stomachable of a romance film as love actually, except for the fact that they had to ruin it by trying to include social commentary on issues the directors/producers just didn’t get. but to consider this movie as anything beyond a cheesy love story and the ‘just another teen movie’ version of city of god to me is pretty sad. 10 oscar nominations??? please. makes me think the oscars (and award shows generally) are just an utter waste of money and brainspace.

  7. also the last scene was like a pathetic attempt at mimicking bollywood films, which is full of ravishing scenes where suddenly the lovers are dancing in saris in the swiss alps surrounded by 100 other indian people all dancing in formation. train station scene = boring, badly choreographed knock off.

    can you tell i didnt like this movie? its existance offends me

    • tannerleah says:

      OIS – I agree with you. I get very frustrated when dramas leap over the boundaries of plausibility. I don’t mind pushing boundaries but there has to be a thread of realism throughout the movie. And the throw in at the end of the movie in the train station was just so out of sync with the rest of the movie. Do that while the credits are rolling…if you must.

      I would agree with Liz that your take on the movie is going to be different than the average viewer. What seems slightly out of bounds to the uniformed is likely completely over the top for those that have a clue. I feel like that when I watch most military movies. How can you not even take the time to show an actor how to salute properly? Maybe our expectations are simply too high.

  8. elizabeth3hersh says:

    TL, yes I do possess a lot of mundane knowledge, but I also have to fact check from time to time. For instance, I thought the dung patties were used primarily for cooking by the Dalit (it is for some families). Fact checking revealed it accounted for a fifth of energy use. How could I not use that? If your readers haven’t heard of the Dalit, that just proves my point that Americans are woefully ignorant on world affairs. I’ll take Bangalore over Bangor any day when it comes to tech support and cuisine.

  9. elizabeth3hersh says:

    OIS, as an Indian, your view of Slumdog and Bollywood is going to be dramatically different than the monocular view of a run-of-the-mill native born American who is not privy to the beautiful and vivid colors of a multi-cultural prism. The fact you saw “City of God” speaks volumes. Slumdog was not of the caliber of City of God (an absolutely awesome movie). But, it did get me excited to see the potential rags to riches transformation of a country. I get the same kind of excitement when I see a biographical movie of a young man who achieves superstar status for some athletic, musical or intellectual ability. We are happy for him. You did hit the nail on the head when you described the romantic scenes as “cheesy”. Bingo.

    • tannerleah says:

      Liz – Did you just call Americans stupid…again? You sure do know how to offend people. And, no, I do not get “excited” or “happy” for fictional characters. You must have been thrilled every time Yogi made off with a pic-a-nic basket.

  10. elizabeth3hersh says:

    Falafel, you moron!

  11. elizabeth3hersh says:

    If you had called it a hamentashen I would have recognized it (there is actually something called a fazuelo which is what Turkish Jews call a hamentashen). I’ll send you a box on Purim.

  12. elizabeth3hersh says:

    Your comment made me think though that it might be interesting to ask a brotha for a samosa recipe (would it be made of sweet potatoes instead of white potatos)?

    As to calling Americans “stupid”…here is a short test on world affairs 101 (you need to answer three out of ten correctly to continue to post on this blog):

    1) Who is the President of Zimbabwe and why has their economy collapsed?

    2) What is the basic difference between a Shiite and Sunni Muslim?

    3) Where is The Hague?

    4) Who is the President of Iran?

    5) What does jihad mean?

    6) What two countries are fighting over Kashmir?

    7) What happened recently in Iceland to cause their economy to collapse?

    8) Who is President of Venezuela and what kind of government does he have?

    9) Who is the exiled leader of Tibet?

    10) Where is Tasmania?

    • tannerleah says:

      Liz – I have one answer to all of your questions. WHO CARES!?!? We are the great and powerful Oz (AKA America) and we don’t need to bother ourselves with all of that tripe. And, really, if countries are fighting over a sweater (as you point out in question 6) then I am glad I don’t know.

  13. elizabeth3hersh says:

    Why do all of my “eights” have an emoticon? Would it be racist to ask OIA?

  14. elizabeth3hersh says:

    Didn’t I already promise to send you one? It’s in the mail.

  15. elizabeth3hersh says:

    Gee, I hope you have enough hair left to pin it on.

  16. elizabeth3hersh says:

    Touché, dude.

  17. Liz – you make a lot of assumptions about things that make no sense.

    firstly, you say that i am going to understand slumdog millionaire from a ‘multi-cultural prism’. you make it sound like having cultural awareness somehow separates me from the rest of America. Have you ever been to any major US city? This is a multicultural country. Come to los angeles – there are people here from every country, with every history and with multicultural lenses beyond what even i, oh wise and multicultural person that i am, can understand.

    also, my mom doesn’t even make samosas with potatoes. she uses ground soy. and my auntie makes them with cheddar cheese and corn. i could give you a recipe, but it gets complicated to explain how spices work.

    and for the smily face #8 comment being racist….i dont even really know what that means. maybe you should look at an html manual.

    additionally, i think your list of questions to test for american stupidity is good, but it is rather simplistic. anyone could look up those answers on wikipedia, and then be considered not stupid. when really, answers to those questions wouln’t really signify understanding how the world works, and the role that the US plays in the world. so, why don’t you try to answer the questions in the list below. i may just send you the recipe for samosas if you can competently answer all 10:

    1. how does our system of public social services work, what is considered a public social service, and how does this compare to other nations in the world?

    2. we wrote the constitution for which major country in the world?

    3. the border of which 2 countries sees the highest rate of immigration in the world? (hint: one of them is the US)

    4. how is the cold war different from the war on terrorism?

    5. how many wars would you estimate that we involved in currently (including those that we fund even if we don’t fight)?

    6. what is a free trade agreement, and how does it affect immigration?

    7. how does our political system compare with other democracies in the world, such as India which is the largest democracy in the world? – to simplify this, can you name 3 other countries besides the US that have democratic systems of government in place?

    8. why is it that we are the ‘most powerful nation in the world’ and a decent majority of our graduates from higher level science, math and technology degrees are students from china, india, and other nations?

    9. why is the continued existence of the KKK not considered to be the ultimate sign of white privelege, and why are they not considered a terrorist group?

    10. how can we spout that we want democracy and freedom, and then we are silent when bush passes the patriot act, when we destroy our own environment and the environment all over the world, when we fund dictators to support our own foreign policy goals, when we cause wars for peace, when our government justifies torture, and we are all to silent and uneducated about these issues to actually do anything about them?

    11. What country produces more films for global distribution than the united states? (i’ll give you a hint…its india…oh…shit….i answered my own question….)

    and, just cuz i had so much fun with this list, here are some bonus questions:

    * for how long has the US had a Mexican population living within its borders? (i’ll give you a hint….major parts of the US used to belong to mexico before they were ever american territory. …shit! answered my own question again….)

    * how many free trade agreements is the US involved in? (this one is truly bonus…i dont know the answer to it myself)

    I would also like to mention that if i can accomplish one goal in my life, it will be to remind everyone that before europe went around colonizing and enslaving the world, there were powerful and highly advanced civilizations existin in every part of the world, from the americas, to asia, to africa and the middle east.

    and to go back to the original rant, i think a big problem i have with slumdog millionaire is that this movie is being trotted out to the WORLD. if it stayed a little hidden cult film that some people raved about, it would be different. it just makes me mad that films like monsoon wedding, tsotsi, lagaan, and other films that actually have some substance to have not gained nearly an ounce of the international attention that this film has garnered. it seems like a scam to me. this movie to me was another white person playing on gender and racial stereotypes, exploiting horrifying poverty and pains that people go through, to create a cheesy, somewhat cute film. there is something morally wrong about this to me. i think filmmakers and tv producers should be held accountable culturally for the stuff they produce, becaues they have such a powerful effect on how people see the rest of the world.

  18. oops. i mean answer all 11. i can write, but i can’t count…apparently

  19. also, question #4 is a trick question.

    and edit to #8:

    8. why is it that we are the ‘most powerful nation in the world’ and a decent majority of our graduates from higher level science, math and technology degrees are students from china, india, and other nations, while a sadly huge percentage of our own home grown, american born minority students graduate without knowing how to add basic fractions?

  20. elizabeth3hersh says:

    OIS, I like my quiz much better because 1) I know all the answers and 2) I would have to use wiki to answer all your questions (except for maybe number 8) although I could comment on them fairly intelligently. By the way, question number eight is excellent! I have a hunch you could answer all my questions correctly without wiki. As to my remark that you might view Slumdog from a multi-cultural prism, yes, urbanites probably have that same multi-cultural view, but I was referring to middle America who for the most part, do not have that view (trust me on this).

    If you would like, you can Fed-Ex me a box of your aunt’s samosas (Middle America is asking “what’s a samosa?”…see what I mean). I already asked SD to mail me some Big Red so hopefully I can wash down the samosas with the Red and then play with the bottle when I’m done. Please tell me you’re considering this.

    I saw Monsoon Wedding and agree with you that it (rather than Slumdog) should have been catapulted on the international “must see” movie stage. I just added Tsotsi to my Netflix queue…thanks for the recommendation.

    I asked if it would be racist if I asked you why there is an emoticon whenever I type 8 (eight) on this blog because I assumed you would have stellar tech support skills (please take that as the compliment it was intended).

    Addendum: I gave my quiz (because yours is too hard…which partly explains the answer to your question eight) to my teenage daughters who scored 80% and 70%…wow, no one has heard of Tasmania, an island off the coast of Australia.

  21. elizabeth3hersh says:

    There’s that damn emoticon again!! Can I please get some tech support?!?

  22. haha!!

    yes…that long post…again, i was procrastinating work….i had a gigantic project due on friday, but now i am FINISHED!! HA!!!

    also, the article im posting below is one my friend sent to me and pretty much solidifies my hatred for this movie:

    http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/whod-want-to-be-a-slumdog-millionaire/2009/01/27/1232818435810.html

    • tannerleah says:

      OIS – That is a sad story. I could understand when the film was being made that money was sparse. But, c’mon…all of these guys and gals should be loaded once this movie runs its course. Just a reminder of how easy it is to take advantage of the under educated, second class (or third) citizens of the world.

  23. also, as far as being racist/stereotyping indian people as techies…i can do some basic html like insert links and make things bold. but that’s about it. i mean, im sure if i went out and took a class or read a book i could learn some more stuff easily enough, but i dont think its like built into my genetic code or anything. im more of a policy maker/journalist/artist/dancer/poet/sociologist/historian. i think that is what i would make my job description if it wouldnt be weird to put on my resume. haha

    also, please read the article i posted a link to above. slumdog millionaire used child exploitation to make the movie…which is rather…frightening…

    here’s another article on it: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2009/jan/30/slumdog-millionaire-accused-of-exploiting-actors

    • tannerleah says:

      OIS – Another good article. Thanks. They will have no choice but to pony up the cash at this point. If those kids were American, they would never have to work again in their lives except for celebrity boxing and rehab shows.

  24. elizabeth3hersh says:

    OIS, was the massacre in the movie supposed to be the 2002 Gujarat uprising? If so, can you share some insight into what happened? I sometimes forget there are other countries bordering Muslim countries (other than Israel which is always on my mind). It would be interesting to hear your point of view.

  25. watercrest says:

    THIS MESSAGE IS FOR TANNERLEG,
    First of all, you need to do your own research before you put your comments on the movie SDM. Your comments were very ignorant. THe movie is not about NORTH AMERICAN NATIVES. I could go on …but then, it’s no use.
    Make a trip to the library.

    • tannerleah says:

      Watercrest – Why do you call me “Tannerleg”? Is that some sort of racial attack?

      YOU need to go to the library. Where do you think Indians come from? My God, have you never been to one of their casinos?

  26. elizabeth3hersh says:

    While you’re visiting the library watercrest, look up the word satire.

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