By Kathryn Eident, Globe Correspondent
It's the story of an orphan boy from Mumbai who rises out of the slums to success on the Indian version of "Who wants to be a millionaire?" The movie "Slumdog Millionaire" has wowed critics and won 8 Oscars, and it's generating talk among Indian Americans in Waltham and other area communities.
For Jayashree Shahane, a Sharon resident who volunteers at the Waltham-based Learnquest Academy of Music, a school that teaches classical Indian music, the movie is beautiful, imaginative and intense.
“I thought it was brilliantly made,” said Shahane, “It appeals to everyone. All of my Indian friends who’ve seen it have liked it, and I have other neighbors with no exposure to Indian culture who loved it.”
As someone who appreciates music, Shahane is especially thrilled to see the movie’s composer, A.R. Rahman, also nominated for awards.
“His music is beautiful. Indian people are not surprised at all because it comes from a genius,” she said. “He goes for traditional kinds of music with a classical base, then comes up with these tunes sometimes that sound very different, very beautiful and very melodious.”
“I know that a lot of people were hurt in India because of the title and because of some of the scenes,” she said. “I guess that was a shocker to see that part of society—the slums and the poverty. You kind of feel sad and you are tense throughout the movie.”
At home, some say the film’s depiction of the slums as squalid and violent is inaccurate.
“It’s not the real India,” said an employee at Patel Brothers grocery store on Moody Street who did not want to be named. “I’m sure in some corners it’s like that, but you don’t know the real India inside and out [by seeing the movie].”
For Pradeep Shukla, a Suffolk University professor and director of the Learnquest Academy, the narrow focus on the slums is the film’s one major drawback.
“There are a lot of good things about India that people don’t know about,” he said. “Poverty exists everywhere, in the US and in US cities. Every country has good parts and its bad parts.”
Shulka cautions moviegoers to remember that the film is entertainment and shouldn’t be seen as an accurate portrayal of Indian culture.
“I don’t think that it was goal of the movie to show life in the slums. To me [the movie] sounds like a great piece of imagination,” he said. “I consider it a piece of literature, not history.”
Rajashree Ghosh, a resident scholar at Brandeis University’s Women’s Studies Research Center, agrees with Shukla. The movie resonates across cultures because it depicts universal themes like love, struggle, triumph and hope, she said.
“This is a story, a film. Even if it has a western influence, they’re narrating a story,” she said. “They’re not trying to change what’s true and can be real and can be possible.”
She also wrote about her impressions in a recent article published by India New England, a newspaper and web site for New England’s Indian-American community.
Altaf Dugla, owner of the New Apna Bazar grocery store on Moody Street, said the film’s portrayal of life in the slums is realistic and important for people to see.
“It’s good for everyone to know what’s going on in the world, all over the world,” he said. “It’s a beautiful movie. I hope it wins an Oscar.”
What do you think? What was your reaction to Slumdog Millionaire? Comment on the story below and contribute to the discussion.