ABSTRACT

SM’s text is not inconsequential to the study of Mumbai’s socio-cultural profile, or irrelevant to the needs of contemporary India. Its rejection feeds into colonialism’s sexist and racist structures via a discourse that pronounces certain intangible cultural products as authentic, while shunting aside those generated in everyday spheres of cultural consumption (Tzanelli 2011:ch.6). The elitist dimension such attitudes sustain propagates a particular public discourse of ‘ethics’ as contractual obligation between groups bound by blood affiliation – a phenomenon otherwise known as ‘heritage’. It also injects this discourse into global domains the very moment transnational institutions such as the United Nations (UN) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) strive to dispel mythical depictions of former colonised polities as ‘underdeveloped’ and therefore in need of ‘instruction’. Although the debate over what constitutes a respectable ‘public face’ for

national polities and how this strategically borrows from dead or dying sexist and racist colonial structures is discussed in Part III, it is worth stressing here how it poisons academic analyses. With all its reductive representations (necessary for the creation of cohesive cinematic plots), SM challenges fixed conceptions of heritage that discard the development of post-colonial, industrial ‘human refuse’ into new consumption hubs. I refer to SM’s audio-visual reproduction of mobilities, as the film appears to explore new ways of seeing and listening to Mumbai’s and India’s dissonant spaces of human sociality: the slum, the locally managed tour, the locally organised consumption of sexuality (the brothel) and the interpretation of Western popular culture in hybridised Bollywood forms. This extraordinary complex of production and consumption sits on broad understandings of what tourist theorists recognise as slum and dark tourism, and their representational interface. Much of what is discussed in this and some other chapters (5, 7 and 8), relates to what Bell and Lyall recognised as the ‘inverted sublime’ (2002:72, 92-3), which mediates both through natural planes (horizontal) and man-made industrial structures (vertical) through depth codes, ideas of (emotional) abyss or (moral) descent. Popular and specialised sociological imaginations constantly populate these

depths with monsters and ideas of hell, visually coding sublimation into black or dark, like Niebuhr’s (1960) theological divide of global ethics. Although the transition from Hindu philosophy to Western camera-work in

SM is conditioned by contemporary genre production needs, it also communicates an intermediary sentiment concerning present social inequalities in urban India. Ray (2012) argues that recent Bollywood movies appear to align with the UN’s Millennium Development goals in terms of plots: their emphasis on gender equality, poverty, democracy and freedom, the right to non-violent protest, fair media, health, education and global partnership appeal to Indian multiculturalism and the call to eliminate socio-cultural discrimination. The country’s statist interventionism in public life and disorganised capitalism in foreign business thrives on endemic administrative ‘corruption’; it supports clientelism and an underworld mafia that Bollywood itself started debating from the 1970s in its cinematic plots. Again, we deal with questions of meritocracy and malicious rumour in consumption. At a basic cosmological level, SM toys with such Bollywood themes enough to resonate with domestic Indian audiences without alienating Western aesthetic sentiment. This aesthetic hybridisation can be partially attributed to pragmatic restrictions and needs: films have to be defined by the industry and recognised by audiences as such, as genres are not pure scientific categories but publicly constructed ones (Altman 1999:16). The globality of cinematic production as well as the internationalisation of the industry’s human resources (Hesmondhalgh and Baker 2010), with actors figuring as a professional community of interests in media coverage, might also affect genre definitions. Even if adaptation is regarded as ‘an invisible genre’, film-goers usually recognise its distinctiveness, just as any literary genre that has been institutionalised so as to demarcate the audience’s horizons of expectation and the author’s writing models (Todorov 1990:17-18; Leitch 2008:106). The fact that SM’s protagonists were not famous as actors but could be

instantly recognised as suitable for the role due to their psychosocial habitus further contributed to the story’s genre classification (as a hybrid Bollywoodfriendly movie). Artistic technopoesis depends on skill or gift – an embodiedacting knowledge that distinguishes serendipity from accident (Merton and Barber 2004:43-4). Suggestively, SM unfolds in Bollywood’s non-European phantasmagoric heartland (Patke 2000) and the first half of the film preys on the power of global media to obscure or illuminate the lives of the social periphery. This immediately connects the movie to the diachronic development of slum tourism as a sort of need to relate with the underworld and the ‘invisible’ deprived human who deserves philanthropic support, including the right to earn while (s)he is being ‘toured’ and artistically represented (Low 1999; Koven 2004; et al. 2009; Meschkank 2011, 2012). There are also solid connections between the emergence of a digitally mediated romantic consumerist ethic (Coyne 1999; Campbell 2005) and charitable representations of deprived post-industrial communities that we cannot bypass. In a similar vein with Barlow’s utopianism (1996) this new ethic acknowledges the role of

materiality in progress but highlights this ideology’s exhaustion. However, the proposed new utopian synthesis attempts to transcend ontological distinctions between the materiality of industrial society and the realm of virtuality. It does so by combining the scientific romanticism of Enlightenment progress with the Romantic critique of modernity into new possibilities to achieve material transformation, which lead to self-realisation and holism (Yar 2014:28-30). These observations allow one to connect the ‘high arts’ to realist environments

so as to re-examine ‘ethics’ as a pivotal concept in SM’s multiple contexts (e.g. Kracauer 1997). The first conception of ethics is tied to slum and dark tourism as humanity’s ‘dissonant’ forms of heritage (Dann 2001; Dann and Seaton 2001; Seaton 2012), whereas the second might both reinstate and challenge the first through audio-visual negotiations of slum ethics as habit. Both dark and slum tourism are rooted in European histories of exile, slavery, displacement or colonial genocide (Frenzel 2012); both can be viewed as responsible reactions to these histories via philanthropic intervention and privileged activism; both inform global aesthetic ‘curricula’ of edu-tourism or educational tourism (see also Spivak 2012). These forms of tourism are an example of Tardean dispositif (Tonkonoff 2013:268) – they enable a ‘thick description’ of transnational cosmological flows that claim patrilineages and moorings in a constantly mobile human universe (Cresswell 2001; Hannam et al. 2006). A deep and ‘thick’ description (Geertz 1973; Herzfeld 2008; Smith 2008:174) of the term éthos (literally repetitive character/custom) connects to Aristotelian phronesis as the prerequisite logical production of familiarity and respectability, but also to Tardean emulations of a social paradigm (Basic Lexicon of Ancient Greek Online 2013). To put theory in context: I argue that SM’s art-work emulates Indian socio-cultural paradigms in the form of human characters (Barth 1981), but such perceptions are themselves also productive of the artistic community’s ethos. Put otherwise, representations of Mumbai’s slumscapes and its human characters in SM reflect the sort of ethics its makers propagate as part of a global socio-cultural contingent. Contra any elitist conceptions of ‘deserving’ academic investigation (an amusing equivalent of the political discourse on the ‘deserving poor’), I argue that SM’s cinematic ethos and its hybrid ethics of care for poorer communities should be treated as a unity. Marketing necessities aside, from scriptwriting to directing and acting SM

flags its makers’ determination to break away from ‘soft’ melodrama by fusing social violence and new lifestyle rituals into a seamless discourse of everyday life in global cities. At the centre of all these remains the image of the stranger – a racialised, gendered and emotionally rich character that exposes the limitations and weaknesses of the familiar, the sedentary and the voyeuristic gazer (Wolff/Simmel 1959; Bauman 2003a). Both Beaufoy and Boyle stressed that the script acquires a dynamism precisely because its diegetic extremes reflect ‘what is going on’ in real India (Slumdog Dreams, 2009). Although the film takes the viewer for a journey into Mumbai’s slum ‘precariat’ (urbanity’s new social class suffering from job insecurity (Karin and Beck, 2010; Standing, 24 May 2011; Standing, 2011)) through its protagonist’s (Jamal) memory

flashbacks and his brother’s (Salim) frustrations and criminal activities, it also allows the main heroes to enter other phantasmagoric realms of contemporary consumption distanced from gang violence and crime. This diversity does not foreclose hidden continuities between crime and glamour, Jihad-like violence and McWorld infotainment (Barber 2003): Jamal’s appearance in a globally famous quiz show (Mumbai’s version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?) foregrounds a safer cinematic ‘reality’ of show business; likewise, the young couple’s (Jamal and Latika) concluding dance routines seem to stand miles apart from cinematic renditions of administrative violence, poverty and corruption. But the film’s ultimate message is that nothing is as it seems in entertainment.

Here we can unearth another connection between filmic reality and new philanthropic tourisms grounded in Europe’s dissonant heritage. In terms of image and sound, the contrast between everyday rituals with crime blends form with content, in what can be likened to ‘dark cinematic tourism’. Boyle acknowledged the influence of several Bollywood films set in Mumbai providing ‘slick, often mesmerising portrayals of the Mumbai underworld’ seasoned with ‘brutality and urban violence’ (Smith 2013:520), including Satya (1998) (screenplay co-written by Saurabh Shukla, who plays Constable Srinivas in SM) and Company (2002). The chase in one of SM’s opening scenes that builds links between different mobilities – including slum and environmental tourist gazing and listening – was based on a 12-minute police chase through Dharavi slum in Black Friday (2004), an adaptation from S. Hussain Zaidi’s book that discusses the 1993 bombings in Mumbai (Kumar, 23 December 2008). Insinuations of terrorist darkness creep into the scene in which Salim practices Islamic prayer while engaging in illegal activities. It would be equally accurate to attribute the origins of such connections to Beaufoy’s preparatory writing travails in Mumbai, where he was able to gather a patchwork of stories that might, ‘goodness knows how’, knit together. ‘A gangster trial is never off the front page of the Times of India. Hindu/Muslim tensions are bubbling up again and the gang of beggars at one of the road underpasses tell me as much as a Dickens novel ever could about the pay-scale of mutilation’ (Beaufoy, 12 December 2008). In terms of aesthetic practice SM projects a technological interchange of

light with darkness, which establishes the hero’s embodied, emotional and social journey (Campbell 2008) as a trope of labour akin to that we still associate with black slavery. And yet, it is debatable whether SM falls prey to the necropolitical aesthetics of colonial travel that ossified ethnic otherness (Mbembe 2001, 2003), subjecting it into the governmobile agendas of contemporary tourist industries. The film broadcasts a more ambivalent model of native propensity to self-fashioned civility through hard technological labour, forming an individualised dispositif supportive of Boyle’s artwork and activism in academic circles (Pathasarathy 2009). Central to Jamal’s story is a

pedagogical process involving a progressively more refined manipulation of impressions: from cheating and swindling as a child, to serving tourist customers, to displaying personal knowledge in public as an adult, he is progressively cast as a Goffmanesque public performer and an Eliasian civilised human. Dev Patel’s and Freida Pinto’s profiles in Chapter 3 are useful here: Jamal

is an aesthetic version of pangosmiopoiesis, just as Salim and Latika are other versions of it in search of social recognition. SM’s genre affiliations rely heavily on the – cathartic, if we adopt Aristotelian conceptions of social engagement (Aristotle 1996) – passage to social recognition of the protagonists: Jamal’s recognition as an essentially good person rather than a ‘dirty cheat’, Salim as the misguided angry youth and Latika as a woman fighting sexist constraints. In terms of ethographic development, Jamal’s distinctive Indian gesticulation articulates expressiveness in opposition to Salim’s controlled, yet constant facial resentment and Latika’s dreamy or sad glances. Paradoxically, Jamal’s habitus is recognisably Indian, as opposed to Salim’s confusing facial expressions that we find in characterisations of internal European ‘others’ such as the Germans (Tzanelli 2010a:102). In terms of genre theory, these observations culminate in the recognition of SM’s adaptation as a story capitalising on certain textual markers through intertextual references to typified human character and action (Hutcheon 2006). Otherwise put, SM’s text communicates ways of adapting and evolving to social change in an ecumene slowly losing its borders and rootedness and expanding as a map of generalised socio-cultural characters. But SM’s thanatourist (dark tourist) agenda also clashes with its slum tourist

gaze: whereas the former more easily appeals to distant pasts of slavery and reworks them into de-politicised aesthetics, the latter can only revert to realist politics of labour and tourist mobilities (Freire-Madeiros 2009; Linke 2012). Nevertheless, this clash activates the film’s politicised ambiguity, allowing space to articulate the ethics of ‘doing’ and ‘recording’ the realities behind the spectacle of slum tourism: contemporary ‘world risk society’ (Beck 2005) makes sense only through historicisations of the present. In another context Metz (2007:311) explained that although, just like cinematic adaptations, documentaries always allude to a missing whole, their methodological study rarely figures in examinations of documentary film and cinematic adaptations. Exchanging scenes of reality TV with Jamal’s flashbacks (a recurring theme in SM’s narrative) replaces traditional documentary techniques that preserve a false realist feel for the viewer (e.g. Bell and Lyall 2002:114, 117, 121) without reducing SM’s memory-work to any of these genres. Even the snapshots of Jamal’s past are not visually rendered in sepia colours (Johnson 2008:8-9) so as to be aesthetically united with the present (e.g. Jamal’s participation in the quiz show). At the same time, both past and present inform SM’s technologically mediated narrative, as they appear to be recorded and broadcast unedited in ‘real’ present time. Jamal’s twin interrogation by different forms of authority – his live interview with Who Wants to be a Millionaire? presenter Prem Kumar (Anil Kapoor), and a police officer (Irfan Khan) – retain the visual palette of

the present and are cinematically arranged as footage, ready to make sense as an organic extension of Jamal’s biography.