Monday, January 26, 2009

60th Rupublic Day, Slumdog Millionaire and The White Tiger

The 60th Republic day is coming to a close. The day passed by without any major terrorist activities as anticipated.Kudos to the security personnel! But this is not the topic I want to write today - rather I will tell you how I spend the last 'once-in-5-weeks' free weekend after the mid-term exam. Err...don't worry, I am not going to bore you with minute details-rather I will discuss a little bit of the movie Slumdog Millionaire, which I watched last Friday and the 2008 Booker winning book The White Tiger by Arvind Adiga, which I read during the long weekend.

Well, Slumdog Millionaire is a wonderful movie (and right contender for the 4 Golden Globe awards and the 10 Oscar nominations). The story-telling is wonderful. The camera work is excellent. The background music is superb. The film has no excess - it's like a stout 6-pack or 8-pack abs of Slaman or Amir Khans. The cinema is not interrupted with the irrelevant songs (thus diluting the content) like the run of the mill Hindi movies. The only song(Jai ho) at the closing shows Rahman's brillinat composition and also its appropriate (contextual) placement. 

But my focus of this article is not about the film per se but the content. It shows the life, mainly of the children, in the slums of India. Everybody who lands in Chatrapati Sivaji Terminus in Mumbai sees the huge nearby slum, that is shown in the movie. But few ever thought of the quality of life of these people in those dingy areas with hardly any trace of basic amenities like sanitation. The film shows how the people living there are regularly attacked and killed by the real estate promoters in front of the full view of the police . The crooks take advantage of the vulnerable children and exploit them in unthinkable ways. Whatever the film shows is 100 percent truth. Some slum dwellers and others are complaining against the film as it portrays the slum dwellers as dogs and it reveals the shoddy side of India. Few days back I saw a photo of a protest rally in the newspaper where some slum dwellers were carrying banners which read "We are not dogs"! But they confused it completely. They got it totally wrong. The dog is symbolic...or should I say sympathetic. The film shows how Jamal Malik's childhood experiences make him answers all the questions correctly and eventually win 20 million rupees. Under the cover of the story the film begs to attract attentions of the audience towards the pathetic conditions of the slum dwellers which the so called progressive India has totally ignored. 

I find the same thread when I read The White Tiger. Arvind Adiga talks about two worlds - The Darkness and the Light. The two world within one India - that of the rich and the poor. India is progressing but not to the true sense of  the term. The political system is corrupt as hell. The people in the country side, in slums are completely kept out of the progress path. Adiga talks about these in the veil of his story of becoming an entrepreneur in Bangalore from being a half-educated son of a rickshaw puller, who died of TB in a Govt. hospital without doctor in Laxmangarh. 

The other day I was reading Sobha De's Superstar India.  She also talks about these two sides of our nation in some of the chapters.

So when today, on the 60th Republic day, somebody talks of inclusive growth, I want to borrow the phrase from Arvind and say "What a fucking joke".


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