Unstoppable ‘Slumdog’: From Slum Tours to the Billboard Chart

Travel Blog  •  Eva Holland  •  01.26.09 | 9:57 AM ET

Fresh off its slew of Oscar nominations, “Slumdog Millionaire” continues to rack up the headlines. In the Telegraph, Nigel Richardson reports on the surge in business that the film’s success has—predictably—brought for Mumbai’s controversial slum tour operators. Slum tours anywhere are a tricky business to begin with; something tells me that those Indians who are already less-than-thrilled about the film’s success—calling it, among other things, “a white man’s imagined India” and “a poverty tour”—will be even less happy to hear that it’s now inspiring tourists to flock to the real-life slums.

Meanwhile, the movie picked up two more awards this weekend (Best Ensemble Cast, from the Screen Actors Guild, and Best Picture, from the Producers Guild) on its seemingly unstoppable roll towards the Oscars, and the “Slumdog Millionaire” soundtrack hurtled from #55 to #16 on the Billboard 200 last week. (Which begs the question: when was the last time a “world music” album made the Top 20?) As with anything this successful, I suspect the backlash is just beginning; but even the inevitable anti-“Slumdog” chorus should bring some compelling debates about slum tours, voyeurism and the way an emerging India presents itself to the world. Stay tuned: this story isn’t going away anytime soon.

Eva Holland is co-editor of World Hum. She is a former associate editor at Up Here and Up Here Business magazines, and a contributor to Vela. She's based in Canada's Yukon territory.

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