Going global: “Slumdog Millionaire” a film without boundaries

Transnational networks of production, distribution and reception in the contemporary film industry have made it impossible to assign a fixed national identity to much of cinema (Khorana 2013, p.12). The global flows of finance capital, filmmakers and films across borders have led films to lose the national and cultural particularity they once had (Ezra & Rowden 2006, p.4). As a result, a global cinemascape has emerged (Ezra & Rowden 2006, p.2), paving the way for a new genre of film referred to as crossover cinema.

Crossover cinema circulates more or less freely across cultural borders (Ezra & Rowden 2006, p.2). As the site of cross cultural conceputalisation and production (Khorana 2013, p.2), crossover cinema appeals to a wide ranging audience who are spatially and temporally dispersed (Khorana 2013, p.11). The multiple cultural affiliations of transnational creative filmmakers has led to personal, poetic and political border crossing, manifesting in a hybrid content and form (Khorana 2013, p.3). The utilisation of international digital distribution platforms and global marketing strategies (Khorana 2013, p.11) has accelerated this cinematic mobility (Ezra & Rowden 2006, p.5) and led filmmakers across genres to imagine the contemporary world as a global system rather than as a collection of more or less autonomous nations (Ezra & Rowden 2006 p.1).

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Transnational Indian Cinema in English (TICE) reflects this new genre of crossover cinema (Chakraborty 2013). In recent years, India has witnessed a steady growth in crossover films due to a variety of social, cultural and political influences including the growing number of Indian immigrants in various countries, as well as the increasing demand for films that are closer to the reality of a new generation of Indians and Non Resident Indians growing up in a cosmopolitan culture (Chakraborty 2013). As a result, these independent and often small budget films deal with themes such as being an Indian outside the borders of the country, the pains of cultural dislocations, nostalgia for the homeland and the hybridity and multiple identities of Indian immigrants (Chakraborty 2013).

Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire” epitomises the crossover potential of diasporic slumdog-millionaireIndian films, winning critical and popular acclaim throughout the world (Khorana 2010, p.1). As a cross-cultural creative collaboration, consisting of a Western director and Indian co-director (Khorana 2010, p.4); a British film financed in London and shot in India, “Slumdog Millionaire” is possibly the first globalised film (‘Slumdog Millionaire’ cited in Khorana 2010, p.1).

Adapted from an Indian author’s work of fiction titled “Q&A” (Khorana 2010, p.2), “Slumdog Millionaire” occupies an intermediate space between popular Indian cinema and the commercial cinema of Hollywood (Chakraborty 2013). The rags-to-riches, underdog theme coupled with the use of fantasy and montage sequences, wide angles, overhead shots and jump shots are reflective of the storytelling techniques of Bollywood cinema (‘Slumdooged by the past’ as cited in Khorana 2010, p.3), whilst the adaptation, double plotline, flashbacks, parallel editing and fundamentally American storyline privileging individual triumph and hard work reflect the conventions of Hollywood (Khorana 2010, p.3). In addition, “Slumdog Millionare” employed a multilingual format, with only one-third of the film in Hindi (Khorana 2010, p.1). This serves to express the Indian reality better than a single language format (Chakraborty 2013).

Not only does “Slumdog Millionaire” employ a hybrid film grammar (Khorana 2010, slumdog-millionaire-entertainment-weekly-cover-03p.1), but its international distribution and publicity as well as crossover marketing campaign capitalising on the distribution circuits of its home and host nations made it accessible to a broad cosmopolitan audience worldwide (Khorana 2010, p.9). In particular, the release of the film in mainstream cinema complexes in the US enabled the film to literally cross-over to the main (non-foreign) group, thereby deeming it acceptable for a non-foreign Academy Award nomination (Khorana 2010, p.1). The film also fused Indian classical music with Western hip hop and R&B (Khorana 2010, p.1), thus reflecting a heterogeneity of influences.

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“Slumdog Millionaire” debunks Khorana’s caution that “Indian filmmakers search for Western audience might not come to fruition” (2013, p.5) . Instead, the film displays the box office potential of crossover films in the international market, with those which are download (1)Western friendly, possessing a strong theme, an effective screenplay, a familiar narrative and a storyline that displays a reality that is universal more likely to circulate transnationally (Ezra & Rowden 2006, p. 6) and, thereby, function as Cinematic McNuggets, that is, “tasty, easily swallowed, apolitical global cultural morsels” (Ezra & Rowden 2006, p.6).

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Reference List:

Chakraborty, A 2013, ‘Crossover Cinema: New breed of cinema in English is redefining filmmaking in India’, Little India, accessed 30 August 2014, <http://www.littleindia.com/arts-entertainment/14447-crossover-cinema.html>.

Ezra, E & Rowden, T 2006, ‘What is transnational cinema?’ in ‘Transnational Cinema: The film reader’ ed E Ezra and T Rowden, Routledge, London, p. 1-12.

Khorana, S 2013, ‘Crossover Cinema: A Genealogical and Conceptual Overview’ in ‘Crossover Cinema: Cross-Cultural Film from Production to Reception’ ed S Khorana, Routledge, New York, p.3-13

Khorana, S 2010, ‘Crossover audiences in the aftermath of Slumdog Millionaire’ in E. Morrell & M. Barr (Eds.), Crises and Opportunities: Past, Present and Future. Proceedings of the 18th Biennial Conference of the ASAA, 5 – 8 July 2010, held at the University of Adelaide, Australia, p.1-10.

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