Why is it that when a movie portrays disturbing images on the screen, there will be citizens and politicians yapping that its a dishonour, a disgrace, a slap in the face to national pride and/or to national dignity. People, its a MOVIE. The only kind of films that you may get offended if they portray your country or its people wrong is IF its a DOCUMENTARY - repeat after me, D-o-c-u-m-e-n-t-a-r-y, now go look it up in the dictionary. If its a documentary, its should be like a snapshot of history, go and refute it if it never happened or did not paint a full picture.
If its not a documentary, then its a movie, even if its based on real events, its still a movie. You may not agree with the story being told, but you cannot stop others from enjoying them. Asian nations have this huge bloody chip on their collective shoulders - every time a movie comes out that ruffled their senses, be it a swipe on some shoddy past history or capturing pockets of disenfranchised people/community or highlighting corruption and other bad behaviour of certain people, etc... Asians will protest that it paints its people, its country and/or its history in the wrong shade.
I mean c'mon... Zhang Zhiyi in Memoirs of A Geisha also got complaints??!! I agree when Japanese government totally whitewashed the Nanking Incident from their history books, that you should be angry, you should never alter history. Do you think any film makers will even dare do a picture about King Bhumibol of Thailand? If you do, you better never step foot in Thailand. If you asked me, I would like to make a movie about how Thailand basically negotiated with the Japanese, and sold their neighbours (Malaysia and Singapore) to the abattoirs when they allowed Japanese troops to cut through Thailand and into Malaysia and Singapore in exchange for the country not to be attacked by the Japanese - pragmatic yes, reprehensible, a bigger yes.
In the West, the most amount of protests will come after every religious movie. Doesn't matter if its Jesus or Moses, there will be people disagreeing. Disagree ok, go and rant and rave at home or to your friends, why take to the streets? By doing the latter you are trying to impose your your beliefs on others, the same way if you don't agree with gays and lesbians lifestyles, there is no need to go to the streets, if you don't agree to some being Buddhists, does it mean you go to the streets as well? You can argue your case but remember there is a line in presenting your case and stuffing things down other people's throat.
If Slumdog Millionaire was TOTALLY FICTITIOUS, i.e. these slums never did existed, I doubt very much it would have been such a big hit. Its the knowledge that these things are present even till today, its that gritty bit of reality that not many want to face up to, its the desperate lives of many that the rest wants to get out of their minds, its the hordes of begging children crowding you when you go to work every day - you want to desensitise yourself from the realities in order to carry on your daily lives. You cannot seriously be empathetic every day, every hour, every minute with the down-trodden, the poor, the sick, the broken... when they are around you all the time - its an open wound that no one wants to see and be commented on, look at the pus!
The detractors called Slumdog "poverty porn", c'mon... so if its Rambo then its "violence porn", if its a chick flick would it then be "romance porn"? Global audiences might be accustomed to thinking about India in terms of a country divided by extravagant wealth and dismal poverty, but Indians themselves still seem uncomfortable with that reflection. That seems to be the crux of the matter, Asians generally are not yet comfortable to see their surrounding, their people or history being portrayed in a not too flattering manner - misplaced pride or lack of self identity or lack of confidence in national identity or ...
If there were movies about the going-ons in Petaling Street or Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman after midnight, we should be OK with it, if there is a movie about police corruption or brutality in Malaysia, we should be OK with it ... but I rather want it to be called a documentary though!
Good movies will cause people to be entertained, great movies will cause people to reflect and remember. Slumdog should be the catalyst where the people responsible may finally do something to help eradicate or at least reduce the abysmal poverty in India. These slums cannot be allowed to exist in this day and age, its inhumane, our pets have better lifestyle. The slums are not just in India, its everywhere, in the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and even Malaysia. We should not close an eye to injustice, we need to uphold human dignity.
The scenes where children are maimed or blinded to be better beggars was a stark reminder to all Asians, because we all know its true and not just in India. There have been too many cases of kids being kidnapped by gangs, smuggled to another country and have their limbs amputated to be beggars - you know and I know its out there but to be forced to come to terms with it is not something we want to confront. The poverty in the movie is tainted with the infernal caste system and religious bigotry - both being huge issues in many countries. Be open, start to deal with it, open up people's minds about it - education and information.
Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan said: “if SM projects India as a third-world, dirty, underbelly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots, let it be known that a murky underbelly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations.” Yes Ami baby, we all know that, its not just India, don't go nationalistic on people.
There is the chasm between a country’s self-perception and projection and any reasonable measure of its achievements - in particular China and India, both countries are proud and yet coming to terms with globalisation and being an economic force at the same time. Trying to find their feet amidst the global stage - be open, take a backseat to reflect and don't take things personally.
Many Bollywood filmakers derided Slumdog as pandering to Western curiosity - hey, to film the slums probably cost Danny Boyle very little, its right there, no artificial stage or backdrop, its there ... the bloody song and dance (which I loved) at the end of the movie probably cost a lot more than the all the filming done in the slums! Fact - around half of Mumbai's population live in slums and authorities in the state of Maharashtra have long been under pressure to improve conditions there.
The movie has a lot of relevance to Asia as a whole because this continent has more than its fair share of social injustice, plenty of disenfranchised groups, desperate poverty .... Slumdog is not just a movie about India.
That's the serious bit, back to the movie, its a bloody great movie. It has the underdog factor, gritty mini-stories within the movie. A truly great movie will make you feel empathetic with the main characters - Danny Boyle did a marvelous job, you feel for the characters, you know what they were thinking, what their priorities were, why they kept on going.
Yes its a bit about love but more than that, its about the triumph of the human spirit against adversity. In life, we all will face our fair share of adversity, some more than others, that's a given and a definite. How each of us respond to them, is still up in the air. As bad as things are in this world, God will give you the armory and grace to face them: "My grace is sufficient.