It was a pleasant surprise to watch Slumdog  Millionaire win the Oscars. Rarely a movie pricks the conscience of a nation. But when it does it comes with a lot of soul searching to do. I see the soul of India searched again. I thought this was a fitting tribute to India’s 21st century reality. Though I live today in the comforts of the west I have experienced the slum dog moments in my growing years in India. It’s real. It’s everywhere. There are no ghettos in the west that can be compared to the squalor and abject poverty that stains the slums of India. It’s pretty difficult for any westerner to comprehend life in the hellish slums. I don’t think the movie is in anyway slamming down India.  Slums do exist in many parts of Asia and Africa. It would be a tragedy if American moviegoers just watched the movie and did nothing about the issues of poverty and child labor, particularly in India.

India is an enigmatic civilization. Sir Winston Churchill called India an abstraction. The country has come a long way and is the world’s noisiest democracy alive. The country of one billion is known worldwide for its information technology prowess. The cities of India are dotted with call centers catering to the global outsourcing industry.  The country is a recognized nuclear power that has also put many satellites into the orbit. Yet, in the midst of this emergent prosperity and global recognition, India’s stark realities abound all over the length and breadth of the nation. The movie Slum dog Millionaire painfully yet realistically portrays the wounds of India. I can see the wounds because I have felt it in the teeming cities of India.

Slumdog Millionaire Jai Ho Full Video - Oscars Best Original Song - Thank You Anil Kumar190184

I am glad that a nation’s glaring realities are shown for what it is. Many rich and famous Indians have not taken to the success of the movie very well including some famous Indian movie stars whose wealth alone can do a lot to alleviate the miseries of the slum dwellers. Their pride has been wounded. Their million-dollar lifestyles and pompous public image has been ripped open by the naked portrayal of India’s miserable class where everyday life is a battle for survival as shown in the movie.

India’s Bollywood produces more movies than Hollywood.  Indian movies are a spectacle of pure fantasy, at best escapism from the ground realities. The predictable movie plots show more foreign locales where the hero and heroine romp around on the putting grass and run around the trees. The boisterous music and the garish wedding scenes don’t happen in real life---only the elite few get to host such mega weddings. Most upper class Indians will spend thousands of dollars to showcase their weddings but do nothing to spread the wealth around to the needy. Why is this so? It is because India’s Hinduism, which is the largest religion in India, operates on a worldview of karma and caste system.  If you are born into the lower caste you are pretty much destined to suffer with it. If you are born street sweeper you will die a street sweeper. You simply cannot break the bonds of caste system which is woven so tightly into the society. 

Child labor is a mushrooming industry in the slums. Basic education is a distant dream for many kids as parents don’t make enough money to send them to school.   The sex trafficking of young girls, the deliberate presence of caste system, and the oppression of dalits (India’s lower caste) the political abandonment of the causes of the poor are a sore sight to watch in the media-hyped internet India.

You can arrive at a gleaming airport in an Indian city that has the feel and look of westernization but once you are out of the airport hungry, emaciated kids will cling to your legs for some money. About 30 miles of driving from the city you can pretty much see an antiquated India. The gap between the old and the new civilization are massive.

Whenever I visited India and walked into some star hotels, I saw a paradox.  It was painful to watch. There I was inside the air-conditioned, red carpeted, squeaky clean deluxe suites but when the curtain on the large French windows were pried open, outside the perimeter of the star hotel were the slums. And the underdogs were slaving away in their daily routine.  I saw hungry mouths, emaciated faces, shriveled bodies, dirty streets; a mess of electric wires hanging low, and the whole scene looked pathetic. The distance between the hotel and the slum was hardly a mile. I was in the 21st century comforts of the nuclear, internet India inside and yet a mile away was the wounded 18th century India where muck and mire abounded.  The Slum Dog Millionaire has ripped open the real India once more. The movie conveys the existential realities of the country. 

I strongly believe a country’s prosperity and pride should not be measured in its technological prowess but in it’s care of the common man----the underdog. How should we as Christians should respond when we are exposed to the realities of a developing country? American Christians should get their hands dirty and do something about alleviating poverty and spread the powerful message of the Christian worldview that honors individual dignity.  Youngsters should catch a vision of a dying world rather than surrounding themselves with the comforts of gizmos and gadgets of this digital era. If it is possible every American Christian youth should go on a long term missions at least once in their life to Asian countries, strategically to India and other affected parts of the world, mingle with the local crowd, feel the pain of a slum life, and discover what it means to live an authentic Christian life.

 Slumdog Millionaire YouTube Video by ThinkDifferent



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The jumble and hustle of modern-day India provides the steamy, energetic backdrop to Danny Boyle's electrifying new feature, Slumdog Millionaire. The film is an eloquent and moving account of a boy...

The jumble and hustle of modern-day India provides the steamy, energetic backdrop to Danny Boyle's electrifying new feature, Slumdog Millionaire. The film is an eloquent and moving account of a boy who attempts to become a millionaire on a television game show, rediscovering the love of his life in the process. Boyle uses this extraordinary premise to paint a kaleidoscopic portrait of a society built around survival of the fittest, where betrayal is commonplace and greed and corruption lie just around every corner.

In a picaresque tale worthy of a Henry Fielding novel, this Tom Jones is Jamal, a poor, bright-eyed youth mischievously getting in and out of scrapes with his even more rambunctious older brother, Salim. In a horrifying turn of events, the two youngsters' lives change in front of their eyes when their mother is viciously killed during a riot. Alone, they turn to the streets, becoming slumdogs. A ray of sunshine comes into their lives when they befriend another orphan, the feisty young girl Latika, and soon the three are inseparable. Adventure follows as the trio learns to survive the cutthroat life of contemporary India but at least they have each other. Or do they?

Years later, Jamal appears on India's version of the game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Amazingly, he finds himself in the position of winning more and more prize money as the answers to the questions keep tumbling his way. But how can a slumdog with no formal education know the answers to these questions? Suspicions are raised, and Jamal quickly learns that the game show will be his biggest life test.

Boyle's film is a cinematic rollercoaster ride. Above all a romance, it is played out in a world where social, economic and political issues are never far away. The young cast is superb, but it is Boyle's dramatic smarts and feel for the heat, sweat and street life of Mumbai that transforms Slumdog Millionaire into a compelling and gripping cinematic experience.

Danny Boyle was born in Manchester and worked in theatre and television before he began to direct for the cinema. Shallow Grave (94), his first feature film, was highly acclaimed, but it was with his second feature, Trainspotting (96), that he achieved cult status. His feature filmography also includes A Life Less Ordinary (97), The Beach (00), Strumpet (01), Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise (01), 28 Days Later (03), Millions (04), Sunshine (07) and Slumdog Millionaire (08).