Tuesday, 10 March 2009

The Slumdog Millionaire Laugh (Review)

The Slumdog Millionaire Laugh (Review)

Entertainment 24x7 is Opium of Industrialism

After so much of hullabaloo on media I decide to write on the movie “Slumdog Millionaire”, which I had ignored so far, to pamper my ego. First, let me quote Coomarswamy:

“Modern pragmatism, of course, deals with the bastard truth of facts, according to which, we expect (though we do not know) that the sun will rise tomorrow, and act accordingly: Hence, also, the modern concept of art as a merely aesthetic experience”, (Anand Coomarswamy, “Time and Eternity”, Select Books, Bangalore, 1989, p 5).

The award winners of “Slumdog Millionaire”, and media were laughing at the awards collected by the movie. They were laughing at the grim reality not only of the slums in Mumbai and cities and towns all over India but also at the precariously grim reality of 900 million people of India’s agrarian society.

Capitalist society continues to capitalize on anything and everything available; the buzzword these days is Poverty. It capitalizes even on its condemnation by anyone – an individual or a group – that may condemn and criticise its systems, dogmas and society; it would bestow awards and titles upon them, (see for example, Nobel Awards and/or alternatives to Nobel Awards in the recent past), which, of course, do no make even a dent.
Or, for that matter, the gender exploitation and the feminist protests, both, flourish side by side, through multimedia, cyberspace and in real life in the capitalist societies, besides racism.

Poverty is a by-product

Poverty, in the contemporary times, is a by-product of Industrial Revolution, inflicted by the capitalist society. Poverty has reached to a shameful dehumanized state to a global scale.

If the modern lifestyle cannot spare the natural environment from degradation, how could market economy / free market / globalization spare the disadvantaged across the world not to reach global poverty?

It is not only the global cities, but also the industrial capitalist societies (the western and westernised) have their footprint on the regions far beyond their sovereign state boundaries, from the North Pole to the South Pole, from East to West. Wherever they place their foot they leave the people of other cultures and other societies in utter poverty (just as it is said, “Wherever civilisation puts it foot it leaves desert behind”).

And the slums, not only in Mumbai, but in other cities and towns across India, are the by-product of the industrial capitalist society – the First World India – initiated by the past colonial masters, and followed by the development obsessed governments in India with their misplaced priorities for the past sixty years.

Indeed, if we should be ashamed of, it is not the “slumdogs” or the “underdogs”, but our democratic government, therefore, ourselves, we who staunchly believe in the First World India (of minority), or which we call the mainstream society of India!

Inspiration behind the plot

A fiction writer can map, manipulate and design acrobatics with characters and events for the purpose of entertainment, just as the stunts in the Hollywood / Bollywood movies. The book, “Q&A”, on which the movie is based, is one of them, authored by a bureaucrat (what more can one expects from a bureaucrat, though there are few exceptions)? Its questions and answers are inspired by “Kaun Banega Crorepati”(KBC) – who wants to be millionaire – TV serial programme. Hence, movie too is a typical vulgar farce and far-fetched.

Though it is said to be produced on a shoe string budget (by Western standards) is politically, economically and socially irrelevant and least creative: It does not do any justice to the people.

At last, a British Sahib reached Mumbai, slyly, to showcase the slums and poverty in India, which was initiated by the Empire. The movie has ploughed back its investment many more times not only awards.

Peasants are the Lifeline

Kaun Banega Crorepati” (KBC), of course, was typically imitated or adopted from its western origin, like many development projects in India. KBC and other similar avatars that appeared on Tellywood channels, which have been epitome of vulgarity, had no relevance other than glamour, passive entertainment and profiteering: It squandered money, which go in to smoke, laugh at 900 million people of agrarian society- the real Third World in India.

The peasants are the lifeline of India, not hundreds of movies produced at Bollywood, and such programmes as KBC on Tellywood, or cricket…! “KBC”, “Jai Ho”, “Chak De India”, Dhan Shanaa Dhan Dhan”, “Mera Bharat Mahan”, “Pro-Poor”, “Garibi Hatao”… and such slogans and promises are not going to make any dent on the sordid condition of the slum dwellers and peasants.

Exodus of Peasants to Cities

In Mumbai alone there live more than 50% people in the slums. They have been self-supporting and self-reliant, though often accused as illegal occupants. Just as Mumbai’s footprint goes far and wide (Mumbai that lives the life of hydroponics) so are the affected, displace and marginalized people flock to Mumbai in search work to earn livelihood with dignity. They hardly dream of being millionaire.

They built Mumbai

The major workforce of skilled, semiskilled and unskilled building workers lives in these slums. They have built Mumbai. The government i.e. legislators and bureaucrats, experts and policymakers hardly know this fact, or perhaps ignore it. Slum dwellers of Dharavi and anywhere else are capable of rebuilding and developing these on their own in far more decent and economical way for sustainable living.

Corrective Measures is the Need of the Hour

Intelligence and creativity are not the prerogative of the elite alone. But the power lobby, greedy of profit, would stifle them with legal instruments, either in countryside or in cities.

They don’t need handmaidens of capitalist society help them to plan, design and build their homes and homestead. What is urgently needed is that the Democracy in India must restore their autonomy by providing proper tools.

Some Statistics
1. The United Nations World Food Programme says that the largest concentration of hunger in the world is in India: 230 million or 27% of the world total (see: M. J. Akbar, THE SIEGE WITHIN, Times of India Mumbai, Mar 1, 2009, p. 16)
2. Wanted: property developer for Mumbai slum
The Indian government has invited developers from around the world to submit plans for the regeneration of a slum in Mumbai, home to Asia’s largest population of slum dwellers… …Nationwide India is facing a slum crisis as more people lock to the cities in search of work. The latest census data reveal that the number of people inhibiting India’s slums more than doubled between 1981 and 2001, rising from 27.9 million to 61.8 million”, (Geographical, Royal Geographical Society, UK, August 2007, Volume 79, No. 8, p.8).


© Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. I regret that I don't like, or rather hate the word "hydroponics", and also the idea of "free building plans". Everyone is equipped with skills to build a shelter for oneself, particularly the "slum-dwellers", accept that the Western and the westernised that monopolise t6he resources that belong to all the living-beings!
    Think of it.