Scream and Shout: Slumdog Millionaire

By Roshni Mulchandani

Slumdog Millionaire has done for India what no other movie has done for the country. It has given India, Indians and Bollywood actors a platform to showcase its talents on an international level. The movie depicts the life of a boy born and bought up in the slums of Mumbai. It follows him from childhood through adolescence and finally into adulthood. Circumstances puts the now man on the popular show, "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" or the Hindi adaptation "Kaun Banega Crorepati." Without revealing the climax of the movie, the story of the film manages to demonstrate the trials, tribulations and ultimately the success of a "slumdog." While the main protagonist is debutant Dev Patel, the host of the millionaire is Bollywood's very own Anil Kapoor along with smaller roles but pivotal played by Irrfan Khan, Mahesh Manjrekar and Saurabh Shukla. The movie also stars younger children who are not star children and in fact have been found within a slum in the city and put on the big screen.

For being such a fine movie, Slumdog Millionaire has had a fair share of controversies unfortunately. For starters, the West loved the movie but many Indian's who were at the same cinema with the westerners heard many variations of the following comments post the movie:

"What a great movie...but poor people of India - they live in such a dump!"

As a clarification, the entire country is not made up of slums. In fact, slums in India only make up a small percentage of the population and this number is slowly falling as the government is now turning the slums into public housing for the impoverished. In addition, local authorities are now adding schools and hospitals to the slum area to help educate children in the slums so they grow up and can get jobs as well as staying healthy with free medical. Granted that most of the time, slummers will need to wait hours before they are actually taken care of but it is a definite start. For those who have never had the grand opportunity of visiting Mumbai, here is some insight. The route from the airport into the South Mumbai runs through an interesting sigh. On the left of the road are grand towering buildings with modern ammenities et al. On the right are a whole row of slums that border the entrance into the slum area. Take a peek inside, and you will be shocked: a television, lights and in some cases even a refrigerator. So you see, slum-livers aren't deprived people who have no food to eat - that is barely the case. They do manage to afford some luxuries of life including televisions that they watch their daily soaps.

While most Indians abroad are thrilled to bits with the exposure their motherland has received with the movie, locally there are some who are not as happy. To begin with they believe the movie depicts India in a grey light because it shows the slums of Mumbai in all its "glory." As a rebuttal, how does that make them any different from the ignorant west? Indians know that their country is not made up of only slums. Additionally, it is not something that India needs to hide from. All countries have a situation that they are not proud of, but do not have the chance or opportunity to portray it on celluloid. Granted that slums is not a situation that India is proud of but it is not something that they should be ashamed of either. It is a reality we need to accept and not be scared to show to the world. Fact of the matter is, that even if we look at the U.S., they too have poverty and in fact the worst health care in the world. Difference is that they do not expose this secret nor have any Hollywood movies (except the odd documentary that has not been promoted or publicized well and was only view by filmfestivalgoers), bared the disgusting facts about its failed health program.

Next in line is the name of the movie which has some educated slumgoers offended. They feel that they are being compared to a dog with use of the name "slumdog." However, why not look at the bright side? First of all, no other movie has used the name SLUM ever and this is numero uno in the world. Even better, it has been used in a Hollywood movie. Secondly, the story demonstrates success and triumph of a slumboy; not him as a failure. Lastly, the word after "Slumdog" is Millionaire or Crorepati which in all honesty is quite ironic and yet very positive. Anil Kapoor too has hailed from a slum in suburban Mumbai and clearly would not partake in a movie which would tarnish or view the slums as in a bad light.

Lastly, the movie also has a scene which apparently shows Lord Ram in a bad light. I'm not sure if this is just another way to create controversy because the scene really just shows a young boy dressed as the God. He doesn't say anything nor does he make any indecent or unnecessary gestures. Not sure what the religious folk are going on about with this baseless claim.

So whats the big deal? It is after all just a movie and should be taken in a much lighter view. The film also shows the best sights of India. How come no one chose to applaud Boyle for his beautiful portrayal of India. In fact the director was so in awe of the 'Maximum City' that he had to be dragged out or he would have continued to shoot for the movie. He will be back in Mumbai to shoot another film with Anil Kapoor and once again show the city in all its splendor. India should be proud that a movie featuring its country, its people, its actors is now being bestowed with some of the greatest awards and honors. It is a of course of great pride that in this world where the West is always applauded for its cinematic excellence, India is now being seen as a running mate. Ironically, it took a British director- and they ruled over India for many hundreds of years, to realize that there are many stories hiding in the country and took it upon himself to raise the Indian flag high and mighty. So whats the big deal? Nothing at all in my mind. Watch the movie and you'll see exactly what I'm screaming and shouting about.

1 comment:

Atheist Indian said...

The movie didn't go down very well with the Indian audience because films serve as an escape from real life. Slumdog Millionaire, while being a rags-to-riches story, shows the dark reality of India too long, which doesn't resonate well for the Indian viewer.
Slumdog Millionaire was a good piece of work, except that they could have done better by making the plot a little more believable. It was a little odd that all the questions asked in the show followed the chronological order in which the events unfolded in Jamal's life. That is beyond suspension of disbelief.


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