Enthusiasm, criticism for film "Slumdog Millionaire"
by Nirmala Carvalho
For some slum dwellers, it is a smear against poverty. For activists and social workers, the film permits international public opinion to understand the situation of the poor in India, and press the public administration to do more.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - "Slumdog Millionaire," the film that has already received 10 Oscar nominations and 4 Golden Globe awards, is now being shown in India. The movie is prompting enthusiasm among young people most of all, although some accuse it of exploiting poverty in order to make money.

The film tells the story of a poor, illiterate young man who hits the jackpot on a TV game show, which was very popular in India because of the participation of movie stars like Amitabh Bachan and Shah Rukh Khan.

The film succeeds in combining a realistic, British-style approach with the typical conventions of a Bollywood love story.

Many local personalities accuse the film of making a spectacle out of poverty in India, but director Danny Boyle defends himself by saying that his work is intended to show the "lust for life" in Mumbai.

The movie was filmed around the Chathrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) (formerly called the Victoria Terminus Station), which sadly became famous for the terrorist attack in Mumbai last November 26. It was at the CST that two terrorists opened fire on the crowd and threw train traffic into chaos. Most of the victims of the terrorist attack were killed at the CST.

According to some critics, it was right after the massacre in Mumbai that the film began to receive international interest.

Some representatives of the city slums are attacking Boyle's work, viewing the word "Slumdog" in the title as an insult. A few dozen of them have organized small demonstrations with banners like "Poverty For Sale" and "I am not a dog." The court in Patna has even registered a complaint by the secretary general of the slum inhabitants, accusing musical director AR Rahman and the actor Anil Kapoor of defaming slum inhabitants by calling them "dogs."

But Ruth Manorama, an activist for Dalit women, sees the matter differently. Speaking with AsiaNews, she says that the film is an "an exposition of how slumdwellers live in our part of the world, it has brought awareness to the international audience through this movie. This film has brought to light on the international stage the problem of these urban poor."

According to Manorama, the film could be used to defend the rights of children, to promote "primary education, welfare facilities, basic health care," and also the rights of women, whose situation in the slums is "pathetic." In her view, as secretary general of the organization Women’s Voice, the film could also bring a greater commitment from city authorities.

One social worker who works in the Dharavi slum - the one that is depicted in the film - sees the movie as a "cultural construct." "These tenements cannot be termed as slums, there is no abject poverty here, most homes have a television and refrigerator, and most have cellular phones. The lack of housing facilities in the city compels people to live in such cramped unhygienic conditions, often in one small tenement. People have to sleep in shifts, there is a lack of sanitations and hygiene, HIV is also rampant in these narrow alleys, and there are not enough primary schools. But all this, ironically, is a reflection not on the people, but rather on the pathetic facilities provided by the administration for the vulnerable segments of society."