Saturday, 11 June 2011

Slumdog Millionaire

My Geography film of the week (from about a month ago!) was Slumdog Millionaire. The film is based on the life of Jamal  Malik, an 18 year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai,  who is just one question away from winning a staggering 20 million rupees on India's 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?'. He is arrested on suspicion of cheating and he tells the police the incredible story of his life on the streets via the experiences that enabled him to answer the questions.

I first watched this film just before I visisted  India, as my teachers suggested it would help prepare me for what I would see when I went over there. Although, I don't really feel that anything prepared me for what I witnessed and the culture shock I experienced whilst  in India, this film does provide a very accurate image and description of the slums which, in large densely populated cities like Mumbai, can be found everywhere (there is a really good documentary on the Geogteacher youtube channel on this The Slumdog Children of Mumbai - it is well worth a watch). Through the life story of Jamal, you get to see how he grows up and confronts the many struggles faced by children living in slums. The glimpse you get of school is similar to what many Indian schools are like - kids literally do fight over textbooks (something that I don't think I have ever seen in an school in this country!) and classrooms are packed with as many children, of various ages, as possible. Other things that you see in the film, unfortunately, do happen in India. For example, the scenes involving the men who pick up children from the streets and then make them to go out on the streets to beg does happen. When I was in India, we spent some time just walking around the streets, perhaps one of the best ways to really get a feel for the daily life of many over there, we were very clearly instructed not to give money to the many that came asking for it because adults will actually rent children, from men like those in the film, for the day as you are more likely to be given money if you have a child - especially if they are disabled (hence why the men do what they did in the film).  If you watch carefully in the film you see Salim filling old water bottles with tap water and then superglueing the lid back on so they look like new bottles of water. Sourcing clean water is a huge issue in India, one that is only going to get worse (hopefully a topic for a new blog post soon!) and this, combined with peoples desperate need for money, means that this is known to happen quite a lot. From the film, you also get an insight into the ongoing development that is occuring in India, in the large cities. Office blocks and new businesses seem to just appear over night as companies are attracted to this developing country. Rapid urbanization is something currently being experienced - which isn't really shown in much detail in the film - and this is only furthering the problems accompanied with the swelling slums.

I personally think that this film is very cleverly made but is it a good Geography film? Well, overall, it does provide quite an accurate insight into life in a slum and life in India, in general. I feel it does fail to capture and convey the real rush and endless pace of Indian life along with the noises (and smells!), especially the beeping of car horns, which apparently all stand for something, although I found it impossible, due to the endless and chaotic beeping, to distinguish between them. Staying on the theme of roads, the footage of the Indian traffic was shockingly calm and orderly, compared to what I experienced, and when you hear people say that in India whole families travel on a moped, they literally do - often accompanied by the family goat or chickens. Films like this are often criticised for showing the extremes and, I have to point out that there are many amazing people in India, working incredibly hard, to fight against the poverty and help get children to safety, away from the streets and into schools, but in India, it seems that only the extremes exist, in terms of the rich and the poor, with no intermediate as the money does not filter down - this is why you often see slums sandwiched between high rise office blocks. In reflection, I would say that it is quite a nice film to watch in relation to development, poverty and population growth and is quite an easy watch as it combines some truly stunning scenery, thought provoking action and a bit of comedy and romance as well. It made me really think about the fact that India already struggles to cope with its population size and so cannot provide health care, education, housing, food, clean water and jobs to all and its population is continuing to grow - a prospect that worries me.

What will India be like in 2030 then, the year its population is predicted to exceed that of China?

1 comment: