Slumdog Millionaire – India’s Real “Slum Dogs” Dream Of A Better Life

Slumdog Millionaire Movie

Slumdog Millionaire Movie


Slumdog Millionaire – India’s Real “Slum Dogs” Dream Of A Better Life

For India’s real slumdogs, dream of a better life is not just something in the movies. British director Danny Boyle’s new film about a boy from the backstreets of Mumbai is a recognisable portrait of everyday life.

India‘s most hotly awaited film is an Oscar frontrunner about the aspirations of some of the world’s most disadvantaged people. Slumdog Millionaire, which opened in the UK yesterday, is a modern-day fairytale about the quintessential Indian dream of getting ahead, getting out and getting rich.

To millions of slum dwellers in India, it’s a familiar theme. The chances of emulating the movie’s protagonist may be small, but many real-life slumdogs demonstrate a fierce optimism that they will achieve a better life, despite their dismal surroundings.

Like the setting of the film, Delhi’s Wazirpur slum is lined by shacks packed so tightly they are accessible only by walking in single file past oozing sewers. In a tiny bare brick space, barely two metres by two and a half, diminutive Priya Oriya eats, cooks, bathes, sleeps and watches television. She shares the room with another woman.

Priya, 17, has chosen to be a slumdog, and her life reads like a film script. After fleeing the rural hopelessness of West Bengal’s tea gardens five years ago, she left her family when they fought with her over her boyfriend, a Muslim. Several abortions later, the couple are still together.

“I can do what I want here. I am too young to have children. I came here for a better life and I would not go back,” says Priya, who earns 2,500 rupees (£35) a month as a domestic servant. “In the village there are no jobs. What would I do?”

In the freedom of the slum, she can wear what she likes and buy what she wants: a mobile phone, a CD player and a television. Although illiterate, Priya says she wants a “big house”. “Why not? I will work for it.”

Like the movie portrayal, crime is never far away. Priya’s younger brother became addicted to glue sniffing after joining a local gang.

“I used to roam the alleys at night looking for him. Once I got him out I sent him to live with my father. He’s too young to be on his own here,” she says.

Although the landscape of Indian cities has become dotted with new apartment blocks and gated communities of whitewashed mansions, these sit as small islands in seas of slums.

More than half of the residents of India’s two biggest cities, Mumbai and Delhi, live in slums. By 2025, the population of each is expected to be exceeded only by that of Tokyo.

The most striking feature of slum life is the smell. Sewage runs freely and the stench of faeces is ever present.

Yet most people are getting on with everyday life. There are temples, mosques and churches. Children play in the dirt. Stallholders sell everything from gas canisters to saucepans on the streets.

On the roof of her tenement block, 20-year-old Sunita Khatri Chhetri, who cleans factories for a living, laughs when she is told about this movie about slums and the young people who thrive inside them.

“It is good. We are people also. If you are in the village you cannot improve yourself. In the city you are able to be in touch with people who are higher up in society,” she says in a mixture of Hindi and English. “I am looking to move up. Who is not?”

Indian critics say Slumdog Millionaire is likely to break social taboos in India: a movie lauded around the world that will shine a spotlight on the widespread apathy about poverty.

Binoo K John, deputy editor and columnist on Mail Today, said Slumdog Millionaire gave “hope to the poor in way we have never seen before”.

“Books and films in India are generally about the elite’s aspirations and their disappointments,” he said. “Bollywood is about family. It is about marriages. The poor, especially the urban poor, never get redemption in works of fiction in India. That is what makes Slumdog Millionaire such a fantastic film.”

There has been some debate about whether the film can claim to be authentically Indian. Slumdog Millionaire was directed by the British filmmaker Danny Boyle, best known for the frenetically bleak Trainspotting. The film is based on a novel, Q&A, by the Indian writer and diplomat Vikas Swarup, and adapted by Simon Beaufoy, the British screenwriter best known for his Oscar-winner The Full Monty.

Slumgod Movie Director Danny Boyle

Slumgod Movie Director Danny Boyle


Although a third of the movie is in Hindi, Slumdog has little to do with conventional Indian cinema, where films are invariably framed by glamorous foreign locations, family feuding and overblown fight-cum-dance sequences. Bollywood recreates Indian city streets in a studio. Boyle filmed in the warren of Mumbai’s biggest slum, setting up cameras in red-light areas.

Loveleen Tandan, who shares co-directing credits with Boyle, said Slumdog was “an outsider’s view of India, but one that is sensitive to another culture. It’s got a cutting-edge look mixed in with an Indian potboiler story about gangsters and a girl stuck in the middle.”

She said the British director wanted a Dickensian-style tale set in an Indian city. “Similar to the way Charles Dickens used Victorian London, Slumdog’s got a dark side.”

Some experts likened Boyle’s movie to last year’s Booker prize winner, The White Tiger, which sparked a debate on domestic servitude. Miloon Kothari, the former UN special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, said Slumdog could do the same by capturing on film a sense of how people survive in horrendous conditions.

“There’s a denial in the middle classes in India about the need for slums. Slums provide the labour in a city and are vibrant places. If the film can raise a debate about these things it should be welcomed.”

Urban sprawl
The number of people living in urban areas has exceeded those in the countryside for the first time, according to a report by the UN last year. India was forecast to contain three of the 10 largest megalopolises by 2025. Most urban dwellers in India live in slums, under tin roofs with little access to clean water and electricity. The global issue of how much living space a person needs is likely to become more acute, especially in India, where the 1.1 billion population is expected to exceed China’s 1.3 billion within a few decades. According to UN figures, 55% of India’s city dwellers live in a space less than 3 sq metres (10 sq ft); against 900 sq ft for the average American.

Dharavi, Mumbai, where Slumdog Millionaire is set, is reported to be the largest slum in Asia, with about a million people per square mile. However, it may not be around much longer: officials plan to replace it with free homes as part of a $2.3bn (£1.2bn) redevelopment scheme.
Randeep Ramesh

Reference

Dharavi Slum In Mumbai

Dharavi Slum In Mumbai

5 Responses

  1. Great Movie!!

    Of course it has made India in Bad light, But good thing is we need to understand that there are many such children doing such a little business to take care of their livelihood. Sometimes ethical, and many a times crude businesses or combo of both.

    1)First, have to advertise his product.
    2)identify a prospective customer.
    3)get an appointment.
    4)compete with his competitors.
    Furthermore, so many phases of marketing world…to get an Order.

    Interesting thing is that he has to complete all the phases of marketing and get an Order in between very short span of time.

    We have heard about many big business men, skilled persons, and very great personalities, the history says many of them started their career in a very simple way. They don’t have any training business schools or colleges or technology providers initially.

    However, in case if they have undergone such a training in the beginning of their career, what would be our India’s position now?? Think in these angles.

    I have seen a lot of protests against this film for the fact that it has put India in BAD LIGHTS. Instead of criticizing this film., let us help one child per head for their education and other essential things and change this BAD LIGHT of INDIA.

    -JaiGanesh

  2. i totally agree with this film our country india we are proud to be indian but we feel ashmed when we know the reality of our country our ministers they are making projects in india but they dont want to do something for our poor childern for their future education who are living in slums of such big cities in india thanks anu

  3. actually i can’t explain my feelings about this movie just it’s perfect and amazing it’s really dazzling to me…. every part, every event and everything in it is just perfect, it’s my ever favourite, and it’s unique, best of the best ,
    and something like this marvel and wonder can’t be iterated ever it just charmed me..

  4. Hello Anu ,

    anilpunjatrediffmaildotcom

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