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Why Salaam Bombay is better than Slumdog Millionaire!

Updated on August 13, 2016

TL;DR: Salaam Bombay (1980) is a way better film than Slumdog Millionaire. A lot of Indians still don't get the fact that Slumdog Millionaire won 8 Oscars. Some of the potential reasons why Indians think that way are listed below-

This is one my favorite arguments about any film. In the fall of 2008, I am studying abroad in UW-Madison and Slumdog Millionaire has released. As I am Indian, a lot of my friends ask me if I liked the movie. I said it's not the real thing. Most of my friends just gave me the look that said "You're denying the fact that the movie is brilliant". They were right. I was a bit biased to Slumdog Millionaire and still am. Here's a discussion why I think there are better movies like Salaam Bombay that show the very same thing as Slumdog Millionaire but are a million times better. A bit on Salaam Bombay's profile- it got released in 1980 and was nominated in the Best Foreign Film category at the Oscars that year.


I'd like to mention as a prelude that there still a lot of Indians today who are confused why Slumdog Millionaire got so many Oscars. Most Indians think there was nothing special about the movie. Everything in the movie was already known to Indians and there are a thousand movies that are better than Slumdog Millionaire.

  1. It seems at times Danny Boyle is making fun of poverty in India. What doesn't help his cause is that he is British and the British are ones who made India poor. Many Indians think that the very same people who made us poor are now making fun of our poverty. It's like a bunch of people gang-rape a girl and then make a movie about her feelings and problems & the gang rapists then get awarded as phenomenal film-makers. Slumdog Millionaire is something like that for Indians.
  2. Why is Salaam Bombay! (1980) a better film? Salaam Bombay talks about a young and homeless kid who has no friends other than drug addicts and brothel owners. He aspires to get out of there and one day he does. Salaam Bombay in no way idolizes or makes poverty look cool. It shows how bad the poverty is and the struggle of many kids to get out of it.

3. In many ways, Slumdog Millionaire is in a sense like the Wolf of Wall Street. We all know stock fraud is bad and illegal. But you watch the film, and you want to do exactly those things. Wolf of Wall Street evokes those feelings within you. It shows you that fraud is bad but only in the climax. The rest of the movie is complete idolization. Only stock market employees and insiders can tell you how dangerous fraud is and shouldn't be done. Compare the view of Indians on Slumdog Millionaire like the stock market insiders watching Wolf of Wall Street.

4. What makes Salaam Bombay! great is that it's real- no fake English accents. In Slumdog Millionaire, Jamal and his brother have a conversation where his brother tells him: Jamal getting no pussy in Mumbai? These guys are working in a hotel in Mumbai and are absolute poor. No poor guy in Mumbai speaks like that, that too never in a British accent. Poor kids can barely speak English, forget having a British accent. Salaam Bombay shows the film as really Indian-no fake accents or fake TV Game shows- Who wants to be a Millionaire. And Salaam Bombay! did get nominated as a Foreign Film at the Oscars.

5. Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? is 'Kaun Banega Crorepati?'. There is no show called Who Wants to be a Millionaire in India. If the makers wanted it to be real, they could have used the show that is really in India. I understand there must be copyright issues but using a fake show that exist in India under a different name doesn't help the film in any way. It seems the film is made for International audiences and not for the very people and culture on whom the film is made on.
6. Danny Boyle (The British) really need to get out of their view of the old, ancient India. Many in Britain still believe they can understand India. The centuries of oppression and wicked managing of Indians by the British rule is something current day Britishers don't understand. A lot of the wealth of India -mostly gold- was stolen and used as currency reserves on which the pound is pegged in the Royal Bank of England & Royal Bank of Scotland. It isn't funny to steal someone's wealth and then make fun of their poverty.
7. When it comes to acting, Dev Patel who is a British Indian is chosen. Of all the potential actors in Mainland India, a British Indian is chosen and one who has no real resemblance to his native country other than the color of his skin. Anil Kapoor who is one of my favorites and has a good role in Slumdog as the host of the game show takes it a little too far with his fake accent. He doesn't speak that way and has an incredible voice. I guess the pressures of the film made him change his style.

8. The plot is terrible in Slumdog Millionaire. Salaam Bombay! never made that mistake but didn't get the same accolades as this film. A poor guy in India never thinks of joining a game show (which has a name not used in India, Indian version has a different name)- to uplift his poverty. As we know, many game shows are possibly rigged and it is impossible ascertain the genuity of the shows. Most Indians who are poor are really hard working and no one chooses a game show to get out of their problems. I know movies are meant to be exaggerate but this is just being ridiculous.

These are my 8 reasons to show why Slumdog Millionaire is not the best film out there to show the poverty and problems it wanted to. There are many others than Salaam Bombay! but IMO, Salaam Bombay! is one that should be watched to know anything about poverty in Mumbai. The poverty really is bad and in no way a Paper planes fairy-tale movie. Post your comments, advice and suggestions. I will love to hear them.

Do You Think Salaam Bombay is better than Slumdog Millionaire?

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