Slumdog? How about Slumguy:
The slang/neologism of slumdog has raised the concern of many proud slumdwellers (is that any better?) who resent being compared to dogs. Considering the particular socioeconomic subaltern status of these activists, the protest against "slumdog" makes sense to them. A particular privilege is signaled in the ability for a group to allow a derogatory name to be reclaimed by them. That is, "queer" and the n-word are only able to be claimed after queers and blacks in the West have gained enough cultural capital. Here, there's an awkward incongruence between the postmodern West and the postcolonial East.
A strange thing happens when Westerners make movies about poor people in developing countries. They're accused of making poverty chic, of pandering to an elite art house crowd. And yes, there are some that dehumanize or fetishize the poor (People who volunteer abroad often say that they do so to see "how the other half lives" or to see "how good they have it"). But to discount the work of Oscar-nominated Deepa Mehta, critic favorite Mira Nair, Booker Prize-winning Aravind Adiga, just because it talks about poor people in India and just because their work is read and admired, doesn't mean that their work should be called "poverty porn." Amitabh Bachchan went to his blog to complain about the fact that it took a white director to put India on the US critics' map. However, I'd be interested to hear what Bachchan has to say about Mehta, Nair, or Adiga. There is a reluctance, often spurred on by an imposed powerlessness, that creates a need for escapist forms of media for the lower classes and makes activism uncool.
You paid the kids hoooow much?
In a development that brings up thoughts of Pixote and The Kite Runner, parents of the film's young stars have accused the producers of the film of paying their children too little. There seems to be no clean solution for this problem. Trust funds for college (for children who just started going to school as a condition of being in the film) are a bit hard for these parents to grasp, I'm sure. I'd find it very difficult to believe the difficulty of such an abrupt change of status and wealth after being drafted into a Hollywood film from the streets of the developing world. The worlds of Mumbai slums and Hollywood offices do not clash cleanly, and there is no perfect way to remedy this casting conundrum, unless one could find a Western bilingual child.
Where's the awards love for the Indians?
Most award-granting institutions have been very kind to Slumdog, but Loveleen Tandon, casting director and co-director, gets none of the awards for the film's direction, after all, she is contractually just a co-director. Nevermind the brilliant performances taken from the film's young characters, apparently...one surely can't assume it was Boyle's work only. Also, the film's sweep of music awards for A.R. Rahman begs the question: Why is one of the most prolific music composers in film history only now getting his just desserts? Why does it take a Danny Boyle film to get Rahman's music on the map? Does this mean that Indian film music will now be recognized in the West? Almost surely not, but if this film is worthy why aren't they all?