I watched Slumdog Millionare yesterday. It was a very real film even though it had its practical flaws...like I still dont know how his brother knew who created the revolver or how the blind child knew about Benjamin Franklin but I guess it succeeded by being an inspiring and interesting way of telling a story.
The movie told me the story behind the face I encountered so often, while driving through the streets of Delhi, of a child begging or selling something at red light junctions or picking their way through garbage dumps. I know a lot of us have felt saddened yet helpess when faced with such situations.
I was reminded of the time when I was waiting in the car for somebody, in Mumbai. A little child came along with a little monkey who he had been trying to train. The poor monkey cub could hardly perform any tricks apart from jumping at his little master's cue. I felt sorry for the twosome and gave the boy (he must have been 5 or 6 years old) some change. That was a mistake.
The driver in the car reprimanded me (I must have been 19) and asked me to sit tight and roll up my windows, as we faced an onslaught of an army of street children each with a little monkey on his arm, all plastering their noses to my window asking for money. I felt terrible, to say the least.
Another time, at a traffic light, a lady asked for money to pay for transport for her pregnant and now labouring friend under the tree. My mother, a righteous obstetrician and my dad a supportive citizen decided to go and see the woman and perhaps take her to Safdarjung Hospital where my mom worked. When they got out of the car, they realized there was no pregnant woman.
I am glad there wasnt another gang at hand to steal the tyres from the car. We continued to see such groups over time on the same junction, they would soon move on to another car when they realized who we were but I presume they continued to make money from their deceit.
Talking about the movie, I think the movie threw bad light on what was an excellent television program and very polite and positive hosts namely Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan. I think that must be the reason nobody agreed to make the movie in India.
There was a lot of reality in the movie...the slum, Hindu Muslim riots, gang wars, child prostitution, organized beggars etc, yet it was an inspring story of survival and also flirted briefly with the upcoming other India- the call centres.
The movie dwelled on the foreigner's perception of India and thus, did not relate to the middle class modern Indian's life or aspirations. I dont think it will be appreciated in India as much as it has been abroad. Lets see how the Slum dog crorepati does.
I know of many other movies who deserve awards- Traffic signal (it was an excellent movie by Madhur Bandarkar on similar issues) Lagaan, Tare Zameen Par, Rang de basanti, Lage raho munnabhai, Corporate, Page 3 etc etc. but then I am Indian.
I can smell the garbage heap when I see it in the movie, can feel the street child's grubby fingers tugging at me or knocking at my car window and movies such as Slumdog Millionare disturb more and entertain less, though I must admit I was moved to tears by the time Jamal had reached the crore question.