Notes From A Real-Life Slumdog

by prash on 22 Feb 2009

In “Slumdog Millionaire”, Jamal breaks out from Dharavi, travels on train-tops to the tune of M.I.A.’s “Paper Plane”, scams tourists at the Taj Mahal, enters “Kaun Banega Crorepati” and at the end of this dream run reunites with his childhood heart-throb, Latika.

That’s great, except real life is nowhere close to that narration. Sudip Mazumdar, a Newsweek reporter from New Delhi recounts his own experiences living in and out of the slums of Kolkata:

People keep praising the film’s “realistic” depiction of slum life in India. But it’s no such thing. Slum life is a cage. It robs you of confidence in the face of the rich and the advantaged. It steals your pride, deadens your ambition, limits your imagination and psychologically cripples you whenever you step outside the comfort zone of your own neighborhood. Most people in the slums never achieve a fairy-tale ending. [Newsweek]

As he recalls his own life experiences in this reality-check piece, you can see that he is obviously not comparing real life with what is obviously a feel-good fairy tale made into a movie. No; instead what he wants to tell us is that not only do most people never make it out of the slums (he has seen almost no difference in the last 50 years at Tangra, Kolkata’s Dharavi), they are probably not encouraged to either:

[…] slums exist, in large part, because they’re allowed to exist. Slumdogs aren’t the only ones whose minds need to be opened up. [Newsweek]

Yes, I know it’s all about priorities, but hey, how about a bailout for atleast those slumdogs who actually want to make an honest effort at adding to GDP?

Newsweek: Man Bites €˜Slumdog€™

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