by Mitu Sengupta
Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire”, perhaps one of the most celebrated films in recent times, tells the rags-to-rajah story of a love-struck Indian boy, Jamal, who, with a little help from “destiny,” triumphs over his wretched beginnings in Mumbai’s squalid slums. Riding on a wave of rave reviews, “Slumdog” has now won Hollywood’s highest tribute, the Academy Award for Best Picture, along with seven more Oscars, including one for Best Director.
These honors will probably add some $100 million to “Slumdog’s” box-office takings, as Oscar wins usually do. They will also further enhance the film’s fast-growing reputation as an authentic representation of the lives of India’s urban poor. So far, most of the awards collected by the film have been accepted in the name of “the children,” suggesting that its own cast and crew regard it (and have relentlessly promoted it) not as a cinematically spectacular, musically rich and entertaining work of fiction, which it is, but as a powerful tool of advocacy. Nothing could be more worrying, as “Slumdog”, despite all the hype to the contrary, delivers a deeply disempowering narrative about the poor that thoroughly undermines, if not totally negates, its seeming message of social justice.