Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Slumdog Millionaire

As we have observed on this site several times, trends in the popular media seem often to reflect (or predict) 'real-life' dramas; especially those of an occult (or 'Fortean') variety. It is another commonplace of events of this kind that, either shortly before or immediately afterwards, something uncannily familiar will crop up in the popular consciousness with just enough of the generic to be easily dismissed as 'coincidence.' The most obvious example of recent years was the postponed release of the movie Cry Baby Gone, starring Casey Affleck; which was shelved (in Britain) for several months due to its very eerie similarities to the real-life case of Madeleine McCann. Oddly enough, the same conditions prevailed in Malaysia, due to purported similarities to the abduction and murder of Nurin Jazlin, an eight-year old girl from Kuala Lumpur. In the case of that film, the weirdness factor was intensified by the fact that the little girl whose abduction Casey Affleck is investigating was portrayed by a child actress called Madeline O'Brien.

In June this year, The Times highlighted the apparent precognition of one Stephen Leather, whose novel Soft Target was released just five months before the 7/7 suicide attacks. The book, about a plot by four British-born Muslims to explode a series of bombs on the Underground, anctipated not just those attacks- as in real-life, one of which occurs above-ground- but also its Stockwell coda: the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes on July 22. Says Leather: 'My hero, Shepherd, has to shoot one of the bombers, even though he's coming at him from behind and can't see any indication that he's carrying a bomb, but there's this voice in his ear telling him that's the man. And he shoots him, and keeps on shooting him, putting bullets into his head until he stops moving. Because that's what the men at the Met told me they would have to do to deal with a suicide bomber.' (See here.)

In similar, if rather less dramatic fashion, when Warner Brothers released a Humphrey Bogart/Ingrid Bergman potboiler named for a Morrocan city obscure to most Americans, the studio's expectations were low. Then, in January 1943, Allied leaders, including Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, held what became known as the 'Casablanca Conference'- and the rest, as they say, is history.

The Mumbai shootings have also attracted coincidences of this kind. Just over two weeks before those events, on November 12th 2008, an independent film by director Danny Boyle was released entitled Slumdog Millionaire. Now being heavily promoted (and tipped for Oscar glory), the film is not concerned with political terrorism- is, in fact, an old-fashioned tale of boy meets girl and success against the odds, from the writer of The Full Monty- but the unfortunate, or perhaps entirely fitting, timing of its release has lent it an unexpected solemnity. The image of the city that director Danny Boyle sought to capture, according to journalist Missy Schwartz, was 'the confounding, frenetic, joyous, seedy metropolis that 20 million people call home. Boyle's vision of life there is hardly fairy-tale innocent— many of the scenes depict unconscionable violence— but it is, ultimately, an optimistic one. And in that respect, Boyle hopes people see Slumdog as he intended it: a love letter to Mumbai in happier times.' (Click here.)

A film critic for the Washington Post, Ann Hornaday observes that: 'Sometimes, when movies coincide with current events, it's not the message that proves eerily prescient. It's the medium- especially how it looks and feels.' And in this regard, she writes, Slumdog Millionaire is an important- and timely- movie. Despite a joyous climax, Boyle's 'hyperkinetic, nonlinear approach anticipates how we have gotten news out of Mumbai over the past few days, as information appeared in an unsettling montage of carnage, explosions, grief and confusion.' And yet there are more specific references to the shootings, too, which warrant investigation.

Jamal, the boy at the centre of the film, lives on the streets of Mumbai's slum district with his older brother Salim, following the death of their mother at the hands of a mob of Hindu extremists. And, as if that wasn't odd enough, the pulsating soundtrack includes the controversial song Paper Airplanes, by London-based recording artist Mathangi Arulpragasam (better known by her stage name M.I.A.) This song, for which M.I.A has had to refute charges of glorifying terrorism, includes the lyrics: 'Some some some I some I murder, some I some I let go'; and was inspired by her estranged father's involvement with the Sri Lankan terrorist network, the LTTE (or Tamil Tigers.)

Undoubtedly the strangest of the Slumdog coincidences, however, is the prominence given to several of the locations targeted in the recent attacks, in particular to the Chhatrapapti Shivaji Terminus, the scene of a Bollywood-style song and dance number accompanying the closing credits. 58 people were murdered at this location last month: one of the busiest railway stations in India, and a Gothic (goetik) masterpiece akin both to the Taj Mahal Hotel, and London's St Pancras. In keeping with the policy of renaming locations with Indian names, the station was renamed by the state government after Chhatrapati Shivaji, a famed 17th century Maratha king in 1996; and was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. Its original name- of Victoria Terminus- may represent another example of the process already well-documented in this series of articles, of the unerring frequency with which incidents of this kind reference 'the Goddess' (or Feminine Principle.)

Coming after the 'Wicked Uncles' of the Regency, the astonishing popularity of Queen Victoria- at a time when the might of the British Empire was at its very peak- made her something of a goddess figure, both at the time and still today, within the mythic imagination. In Roman mythology, Victoria was the equivalent of the Greek goddess Nike, the personification of victory; and Victoria herself seemed to consciously identify with these traditions in her assumption of the title with which, reportedly, she was most proud: Empress of India. Very interestingly, it was during the Victorian Period- often derided for its repressive (and deeply hypocritical) morality- that Britain underwent its second great occult revival, which one continues well into our present age. What was later to become the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was formed in 1888, fifty-one years after Victoria's accession; to which Crowley would be affiliated, before leaving (in disgrace) to found his own rival order, the A.A. The period also sponsored the blooming of the Pre-Raphelites (under Dante Gabriel Rossetti), one of whose favourite and recurring subjects was Mary Magdalene. (See here.)

More to follow...


Frank said...

Really good articles re Mumbai . With regard to precognition , my view is that we are seeing our past , so that what seems like viewing the future is actually remembering ! Time is really complicated .
Mumbai seems to have re-triggered Madeleine McCann in my mind . I could not tell you why but I think there is more to come re MM .

Very " illuminating " if I am allowed to use that expression .

Ben Fairhall said...

Yes, you are allowed to use that expression, Frank!

Thanks for your comment,


Therese said...

The way that films shadow and prefigure events is a good example of the manipulations of consciousness.

Eerie stuff about that Gone Baby Gone film. Thank you for the details about the Slumdog film set in Mumbai, I did not know of it.

This topic makes me remember the Australian film "Diana and I". It was a comedy about a girl who is selected in a newspaper competition to meet Lady Diana in London. The female character is obsessed by Diana, because she has the same birthdate (although 10 years later), and is named Diana Spencer. She has various adventures in London, then is caught up by the paparattzi photographers who are stalking Diana. At one point in the film, they all rush off to photograph a celebrity killed in a car accident.

The film's comedy relies upon the traditional plot of the country bumpkin come to the big city. However, Fortean investigators would notice the "doubling" of the main character as a traditional occult theme. The film was released just at the same time as the shock news of Diana's death.