Tradition and Modernity in Southeast Asia: The Cup, Slumdog Millionaire, Nine Lives

Tradition and Modernity in Southeast Asia: The Cup, Slumdog Millionaire, Nine Lives

Ashleah White
Dr. Subi Lakshmanan
Non-Western Traditions 1310 – 001
18 December 2014
Tradition and Modernity

When a Westerner thinks of India, he thinks of traditions—colorful patterns, strict family values, and lack of change all come to mind. Though it is still a highly traditional society, India is a rapidly modernizing country, so much so that “In Search of the Sacred in Modern India” sublines the cover of William Dalrymple’s book Nine Lives. Of course, this text is not the only work dedicated to balance of tradition and modernity nor is India the only observed country. The rise of South Asia’s newness also sparked the films The Cup (directed by Khyentse Norbu and released in 1999) and Slumdog Millionaire (directed by Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan and released in 2008). These works all strive to bring together the seeming polar opposites; they demonstrate that although incorporating modernity is inevitable, it can successfully blend with traditional values.

Modernity “encapsulate[s] the distinctiveness and dynamism of the social processes unleashed during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which marked a distinct break from traditional ways of life” (Bilton 24). Globalization is defined as the spread of economic opportunities around the world (Ghauri). While there is debate of whether or not the opportunities benefit the affected areas, they exist all the same.

Narrative-wise, Slumdog Millionaire tells the story of Jamal Malik, a young man from the slums of Bombay (which later develop into capital city Mumbai). He appears on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and consistently surprises his audience with correct answers. Due to slum-related stereo-types, Jamal is accused of cheating and recounts (through flashbacks) how he knows the answer to each question, each one linked to a key event in his life. Beyond the narrative lays how Jamal works with modern and traditional influences. Modernity is often characterized as...

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