Sunday, 18 January 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Reading various articles on Slumdog Millionaire makes me think that the world actually believes that Indians are oblivious to the poverty that exists around us. I have recently moved to Mumbai from London and can safely say that is certainly not the case. Never once in my six years outside the country did I encounter an Indian who is unaware of the imbalanced economic growth in the country. Indians, here and globally, are very aware of the poverty. However, yes in the rat race to elevate their own standard of life, the able and the rich, ignore the poor.

Is Slumdog Millionaire the first movie to tackle this issue and highlight the despair of families surviving on less than USD 3 a day? Whether it is Bollywood, or film makers of the Indian diaspora globally, there are multiple films made on this issue. So Danny Boyle has made no first move. Are such efforts worth applause? Most definitely. They highlight artistic curiosity and skilful filmmaking. They promote innate talent and bring clean entertainment to the audience.

However, is just the depiction of these lives via the medium of cinema of any consequence? For those who want to present the underdeveloped third world India yes. For the “celebrities” like Amitabh Bachchan who believe that this is the reality and we need to accept it; yes movies such as this make a lot of sense. It gives them something to talk about on the dining table and with the media to promote themselves. However, other than that there is not much impact that these films have. No person in power or a position of authority has ever used such cinema to lay down a concrete action plan. Has Mr. Bachchan used his power and his wife's status as a member of parliament to do something about the abject poverty in the country? Acknowledging the truth will do us good only if we do something to change the situation!

There are NGOs that are working towards giving children living in the slums a better life (Akanksha, CRY, Pratham etc.), however, that effort needs more whole hearted support from the Indian masses. The upper middle class, NRIs and the celebrities need to spend time, effort and yes money for these children. We can all pick on the limitations of each nation and sitting in the cozy confines of our homes have intellectual debates on the same. That is all easy. The difficult part is to be a contributor in the change that we want to see.

If Slumdog Millionaire can provoke Indians to take action; then it will be a different movie. If not, it will be another movie on an age old subject just well made as the producers, who had access to a pot of money, decided to spend that money for their own benefit rather than use it to improve the life of those that their film portrays.


Anonymous said...

Cinema is a medium to tell a story. Either the story is told or not, we are definitely aware of issues that exist. A director should be appreciated for his effort, where he tries to convey whats already been told in a different way (in the case of slumdog millionaire) so that it appeals to people and enables them to act upon issues or function as an eye opener to some or remind people once again of their social responsibility. It could be the case where we can repeatedly tell stories to remind us of our social responsibility. I think this is perfectly fine as is the case of the human mind to shift focus time and again. Relatively few wake up everyday thinking about society at large.

Anonymous said...

There is no disputing that the movie is worth applause. I do not think that is the contention here. What is being questioned is that just becasue the movie has been directed by a Hollywood producer, is it of more consequence than other films made on the same issue? The author can clarify.