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Thanks to Danny Boyle, Indian cinema is being discussed globally. But the west is still largely ignorant of its canon and its subtleties

By Mark Cousins   March 2009

The buzz about Slumdog Millionaire has people talking about Indian films again. To those who care about international cinema, this seems like a good thing. It raises awareness; it provokes debate. The only problem is that, to my ear, the discussion itself sounds tinny.

Bollywood is invariably stereotyped by the west, while Indian cinema as a whole is poorly understood. Depending on who you ask, Slumdog either captures the tragic exhilaration of Mumbai or cheapens it; its depiction of Mumbai’s massive Dharavi slums is either precisely accurate or hopelessly out-of-date. Yet Indian film, and its relationship to the real world,…

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