Often when there is too much hype surrounding a certain event, it turns out to be something mediocre. Maybe it is because it doesn’t meet our lofty expectations. Slumdog Millionaire was one such event; a movie about India as viewed through the parallax of the west. Director Danny Boyle throws reality on the faces of the Americans and they applaud. He throws the same reality on our faces and we refuse to cringe or budge. Why doesn’t the movie meet our expectations?
Is it because they showed us something we already knew, were used to and were trying hard to look away from? The great Indian dream is all about the transition from being ‘a back office hub to the world’s knowledge capital’. Sadly, the movie reminds me of all that is bleak and ugly. The bustle of traffic, which I shut my ears to by increasing my Ipod volume to max, the smell of grazing cows on crossroads that I ignore every morning and the sight of the poor street urchin begging. He is probably singing the same song (darshan do ghanshyam) but who is listening?
Have we shut our senses or is the existence of slum dwellings so commonplace that it goes unnoticed to the eye of the capitalist? Probably, the west would have enjoyed the movie much more than us because to us the story is the story of every Indian; nothing that resonates 10 Oscar nominations or golden globe awards। It is not that Slumdog is a bad movie. Danny Boyle’s efforts in creating a Cinderalla story for a street urchin are truly commendable. Sadly it is the Armani clad Indian who is flocking the plexes and not our happy little street urchin.
The so-called Slumdogs, young Jamal, Latika and Salim are portrayed to be innocent little children content in their slums. This is what I see everyday crossing my path on the street as I steer the Alto arrogantly. Orphan children chasing orphan kites; Dancing like young Jamal, hugging, puppy fighting or climbing on each other’s backs. They don’t want to be millionaires. They are the millionaires of the street. They roam about the street as if the world is their playground. They grow up much faster. Street education makes them wise sooner than any refined school, preschool or finishing school. They learn their lessons from the school of life. (That is how probably, Jamal knew that the bizarre host was leading him towards the wrong answer.)
The story of India’s Slumdog millions, (no billions) don’t always get a fairy tale ending. ‘It is written’ is the lesson one is supposed to draw from Slumdog. So, we each chase our own destiny. Some may land up in hot seats; some may find their soul mates at Victoria Terminus while some others may die a silent death.