Saturday, February 21, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire Top Ten

Two guys who hopped into the frame in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, March 2008. I would love to know their thoughts on Slumdog Millionaire.

People who know I am married to a South Indian tend to ask me about Indian stuff, which is great. I love an opportunity to educate as much as the next person. Here’s a list of the stuff that’s been coming up lately with the success of the film Slumdog Millionaire.

1. There are Hindus and Muslims in India. Also Jews, Christians, Jains, Sikhs, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, and lots of other religious orders. It has always been that way.

2. Violence between Hindus and Muslims happens to this day, and sadly, it probably always will. See also: Catholics vs. Protestants, Bosnians vs. Serbs, Hatfields vs. McCoys.

3. Mahatma Gandhi was killed by a Hindu extremist who was upset about Muslims getting too good of a deal with the creation of Pakistan and the subsequent partition of the country.

4. Partition was voluntary. Many millions of people felt compelled to migrate to where they thought they’d be safer, and many millions of people died along the way. But many people stayed where they were, and according to Mowgli, India today has more Muslims than Pakistan.

5. Mowgli and I agree that the battery scene was torture porn. Not that torture doesn’t exist in India, but in that situation, it was gratuitous.

6. Dharavi, where parts of the film were shot, is the largest slum in Asia. It happens to sit on prime real estate, near Mumbai’s financial center, and is the center of Mumbai’s recycling industry, as its people are forced to do what they can with what they can find. To get an idea of the scale, go to this link and zoom in, and then look at the area between 90 Feet Road and Mahatma Gandhi Road.

7. Neither of us viewed the film as poverty porn. Slums are awful places where awful things happen, in addition to being full of vibrant life. The film shows both sides, and perhaps now that the world knows more about Dharavi, more will be done to help the people who live there.

8. The film is based on the book “Q&A” by Vikas Swarup, who is an Indian diplomat serving in South Africa. Interestingly, the hero’s name n the book is Ram Mohammed Thomas, a name that represents Hinduism, Islam and Christianity, respectively.

9. Dev Patel, who played Jamal Malik, was born in London and is Hindu but played a Muslim.

10. The film has had a controversial reception in India, partly because of the term “Slumdog” in the title. During a recent Skype call with my in-laws and a few cousins, I learned that it’s an extremely derogatory term left behind by the British.

Bonus fact from Mowgli, who helped me fact-check this post: Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, was born in Lahore, Pakistan. General Pervez Musharraf, former President of Pakistan, was born in New Delhi, India.


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