Online Petition – Slumdog Millionaire: An Indian view-point

via published on January 19, 2009

To:  Major US and Indian publications

We the undersigned find the movie “Slumdog Millionaire” highly offensive for its portrayal of Indians as bloodthirsty, child-beating, eye-plucking people and portrayal of India as a very poor and filthy fifth world country.

Isn’t India poor?

India being a vast and diverse country, is a statistician dream. Figures can be twisted anyways. But the fact is that while the poverty rate in India was 40% 5 years back, it was 60% 25 years back. A 20% jump translates to approximately 200 million people coming out of poverty. Projecting the figures now, the poverty rate in India is the 30% range. India has a 300 million strong middle class. While it is a fact that there is still unacceptable poverty in India a clear majority in India are not extremely poor as portrayed in the movie.

When a dollar isn’t a dollar:

The most commonly quoted figure to paint India an impoverished nation is quoting Indian salary in US dollars by using the exchange rate conversion. But a dollar-a-day isn’t really dollar-a-day in India it is Rupees50-a-day. For many of the most common things 1 dollar translates to 1 rupee. A doctor visit would be Rupees100 in Indian and at least dollar100 in America. Public transport, though very crowded and inefficient, works and a typical daily commute to and from work would be Rs10 in India and $10 in America. Basic food items are highly subsidized to the poor people through a vast Government network. Electricity is free in rural areas. Even the world Bank recognizes the fallacies of using the exchange rate and have abandoned this in favor of Purchasing-Power-Parity. It is pity that lot of publications and statisticians (Liars, damn liars and statisticians), know about this and still use the raw exchange rate figures to make their point of poverty in India.

Aren’t Indian slums hell:

Yes, and then Maybe. Danny Boyle himself in his interview to an Indian publication has admitted that the slums in India are teaming with industries and entrepreneurs. But in the movie the only “industry” he has portrayed in the slums is begging, eye-plucking, prostitution and shooting.

It is just a movie:

“Just a movie” can change public perceptions. Even an over-the-top movie like “Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom” was disastrous for changing the views of India for a generation of people. Kal Penn, the Indian American actor, told that after seeing the Indiana Jones movie, his American friends used to avoid him, thinking he eats monkey’s brains. The “Slumdog” movie has been perceived as “real” by the American and world media. Imagine the amount of profiling and impact this movie would have, especially on the lives of children of Indians abroad, who can’t defend themselves.

Isn’t the author of this movie Indian?

Indians have a long history of degrading themselves in literature and in media. Maybe because some are “ultra-liberal”, maybe it is due to age-old perceptions, maybe some feel that they have to dance to the tune of their “Western-masters”. But the fact is that many Indians in media and literature perceive (rightly or wrongly is debatable) that their work will be published/seen/recognized only if they write something about India and Indians.

We the undersigned pray that the perception of Indian journalists and authors is wrong. We hope that this counter view of Slumdog is published so that people can see India for its glorious diversities and not a one-dimensional hell as portrayed in the movie “Slumdog Millionaire”. Though we have the utmost love and respect for AR Rahman and the rest of the Indian crew, we hope that they think twice about being part of such movies -which can bring only bad to India and Indians. We also hope that the Oscar committee would see this movie as a con to satisfy the Western thirst of superiority and not as “rags-to-riches” story or “real” portrayal of India


The Undersigned

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