Danny Boyle and Slums of Mumbai

An article by fellow blogger S. Hewage emailed to me: 

Where Would Danny Boyle Be Without The Slums Of Mumbai!

By S. Hewage

When I was a professor of sociology in a western Canadian university in the early 1990’s, where a large number of academics were still of British origin, a senior colleague of mine, during a lunch conversation, forcefully lamented that “we lost India.” Somewhat puzzled by the old man’s remark, I sarcastically asked “to whom?” a question he just ignored. 

It seems that the British are still longing for their lost colonial glory, the prestige, the wealth, the power, and above all, the right to claim ownership for more than one-fifth of the world’s population. That is what they miss the most when a Brit says, “we lost India.” 

India was and is a hierarchical society, and so is the old and new Britain, with its aristocracy, and class-conscious citizens. India was more than a colony; it was the “crown Jewel” of the British Empire. India was the symbol of British colonial hegemony over millions of natives across the globe. 

India’s cheap labor was the backbone of the British colonial expansionist project in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was cheap Indian labor, along with British capital, which built the overseas wealth of Britain. As the African slaves were the source of labor in the British colonies in America and the Caribbean, Indian indentured laborers were recruited for other colonies in Asia and Africa, where British Mercantile capitalists had large plantation and mining industries. 

 After 60 years of independence from Britain, entrepreneurial Englishmen still keep coming to India looking for their fortunes! 

As far as the English gentlemen are concerned, the fortune is hidden in the miseries of the millions of impoverished Indians, as it was in the days of the British Raj. The success of the British filmmaker Danny Boyle, whose latest film “Slumdog Millionaire” is a case in point. In the age of globalization, a British filmmaker making a film on slums in Mumbai, India is not the issue here. Many foreigners make films in many parts of the world depicting various issues from their own point of view for global consumption. 

However, my point is that Danny Boyle owes a little more to India and to those kids who provided the “raw materials” for his film than the mere publicity for the grinding poverty in the slums of Mumbai, which the film has generated after winning many movie awards culminating in 8 Academy awards. As it stands now, we hear that some of the children who acted in the film are being provided housing by the Indian government in recognition of their work. 

In my opinion, Danny Boyle owes these children much more. After all, it is the children’s own everyday reality that provided Boyle with the material for his award-winning film.  In this regard, he should at least use part of the revenue from the film to create a charitable fund to help these destitute children living in the slums of India. He could easily set up an organization dedicated to promoting education and providing medical care for these children. That way, his financial gain and his reputation as an award-winning filmmaker is not exclusively his own to enjoy.

Moreover, in this way, we, the audience watching this film in theatres, may not feel so guilty that all our money is going only to strengthen the bank account of Mr. Boyle and his family. This may also set an example for future filmmakers who want to produce movies about poverty, natural and man-made disasters around the world, for the consumption of curious western eyes. 

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Danny Boyle and Slums of Mumbai

  1. Sansarcandra

    I heard about two days back one of the congress leader counting the Oscar for Slumdog millionaire amongst the many achievement of the UPA government. There is nothing untrue about his claim. This I can vouch for as I know Mumbai very well having been born and brought over there. The Congress party is the toast of India for having delivered us the Oscar. The so called liberal press ( English ) is already over the moon and the jholawallas are in such an ecstacy that they are rolling in he sewers of mumbai and elsewhere hoping that some Western filmmaker will notice them. The Congress party has delivered and it up to the Indian public now to elect the congress back to power in the coming election. This way we can keep winning more oscars on the basis of films like Slumdog Millionaire. The film was shot so realistically because the set maker ( in this case the Congress government ) after nearly 56 years of remaining in power in a premier state of Maharashtra has allowed the city to remain photogenic enough for western tourist and film makers to make such compelling films. They not only deserve to come back in power but also get an Oscar for the sets of Slumdog Millionaire.

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