Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Quibble Time: Slumdog Millionaire

Warning: Some Spoilers

I have seen Slumdog Millionaire and found it to be admirable in many ways. The story of love and (some) virtue rewarded reminded me, in a good way, of wonderful old folk stories such as those told in The Mahabharata. I also think that the character of Jamal's brother Salim is one of the more interesting of 2008. And I like the final credits, too.

What hangs me up is the police torture that frames the tale. I think the police chief says that he has better things to do than torture Jamal—and I agree. The eyes of the nation are on the young man, who is soon to appear on television, yet the police take the big risk of violently interrogating him.

I'm not the only one who has an issue with this; you can find a similar criticism amidst others in this post/comment combo. Former Indian ambassador T. P. Sreenivasan has a different but still negative take on the torture:
Torture is internationally banned and the director of the film knew that India had not joined the global consensus against torture. He also knew that India is obsessed with Amnesty International raising issues of human rights when they hear about torture. The police officer mentions Amnesty as the disaster, not the possible death of the victim of torture. The police man appears to enjoy torturing and even insulting the victim. He provokes Jamal by referring to Latika as the 'bitch of the slum.' The torture scenes do not add much to the story, but denigrates India even more than the slums do.
I don't follow Sreenivasan's reasoning (he seems to defend India's defense of torture), but I guess I would accept the torture more if the movie had persuaded me that the police would actually treat Jamal as they do. Or maybe someone out there can persuade me of that. Otherwise, it might've been better for Jamal to have been tortured by someone who had bet a lot of money on his performance on the game show.

Still, the 2008 report on India from Amnesty International says
India signed the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances in February and was re-elected to the UN Human Rights Council. However, India had still not ratified the Convention against Torture and the Convention for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. Requests to visit the country by the UN Special Rapporteurs on torture and on extrajudicial executions remained pending. Invitations were also not issued to the Working Groups on Arbitrary Detention and on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.
Got an opinion? I'd welcome your thoughts on this.

1 comment:

caprice said...

There were a lot of things in the movie that didn't quite make sense, besides the torture. Like the day after half of India is watching him on TV, he goes to the train station and no one recognizes him.