The critics and reviewers and film buffs either went gaga or hysterical in their reactions to the announcement of the Oscar award for the film “ The Slumdog Millionaire “ which reminds me of similar reactions when the celebrated filmmaker Satyajit Ray's maiden venture “ Panther Panchali” won a prestigious award first time for the country which too eminently succeeded in capturing the human drama in poverty. The late actress Nargis even described the film maestro as a “peddler of poverty” an uncharitable remark on work of someone who was a pioneer in neo-realistic films in India. Similarly Danny Boyle's Oscar winning film “The Slumdog Millionaire “ has drawn criticism from various quarters. Some see in it the too familiar “conspiracy theory” of the West to humiliate India by exposing her soft underbelly and to some it was a realistic portrayal of a part of our existence.

 

What does the film portray which is based on a novel “ Q & A “ by Vikas Swarup? As the film unfolds the story of a youngster whose success in the quiz programme “ Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” came under the scrutiny of host and subsequent police interrogation and torture had all the melodramatic elements. And as the film progresses we get to see through the eyes of the film protagonist Jamal and other hapless members of his family the cruel world and its weird ways of survival. They are made to flee from riots in Mumbai which claims their mother to Agra taking to stealing shoes from the tourists at the Taj Mahal etc. There is the shocking tale of Latika the childhood lover of Jamal who is sexually exploited by the gang controlling child beggars and other lurid details.

 

The film just presents the pangs of a society in transition. The face of India is changing fast and very fast indeed. There are big luxurious high-rises coming up at the the places where slums existed and what happens to dwellers in these slums and to their lives and livelihood and the great human drama involving their struggle for existence, its triumphs and tragedies have been well captured in this film.

 

Whether it merits an Oscar award could be the subject of a debate but the theme the director has chosen to base his film upon ,is one of the searing realities in India which we can not shut our eyes to .


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