I listend to Danny Boyle being interviewed on Radio 5 Live before the release of Slumdog Millionaire and mainly wanted to go to see the filming techniques they used on the feature film. Starting with a positive the filming is fantastic. Beautifully crafted ariel shots of the slums in Mumbai and intense filming in crowded and small spaces do convey a spectacle of slum life that is vibrant and fascinating. It makes for rich cinematic viewing.
Then there is the narrative...whilst I don't wish to compare the work with Hindu cinema - either the populist Bollywood or more art house type independent films, it is unavoidable. What we have with Slumdog is a fascinating Western perspective on a complex culturally diverse emerging nation. India is moving forward as a world economy and this emergence now make it available for filmmakers to pastiche. Read, India isn't as economically poor as it used to be so now we can use it to make films. Mumbai is the new backdrop city like Paris or Rome... Except when the Italian neo realists used Rome as a location is wasn't exploitative of the setting as the films undertook to convey complete social commentary feature films e.g De Sica's Ladri di Biciclette/The Bicycle Thief. Indian cinema is what you need to go and see if you want to see Indian films tackling poverty or for pure entertainment.
What Boyle does is throw in lots of unreconciled moralistic views and turns essentially a tragedy into a dance off at a train station. Issue of racial thuggery, poverty and abuse of young children are wiped out and resolved by a TV franchise programme. Let's be clear here Boyle tells the viewer that if you choose to work in a call centre rather than be a criminal due to poverty then you are good. If this wins an Oscar then expect a new genre of Hollywood films - 'poverty porn'.
What is 'poverty porn' well if Slumdog is anything to go by it will be all tales of overcoming hardship and adversity with not only a happy ending but a neo Bush perspective, one where Western globalisation gives you capitalism as the means to a better life. Forget issues of democracy or rights and society, money will solve all your troubles. Hard earned capitalist money. In fact you will jump through shit to behold celebrity and sell your mother/brother/sister/whomever at the right price but don't worry somehow redemption will be found via a gun (for the baddy) or paying your taxes on time (for the goody).
So, sorry Slumdog, your success worries me more than I can celebrate the crafting of the film.