Jai Ho sang India as Oscars dropped Slumdog Millionaire's way. It was a day of celebration indeed and India was on cue, a fact dutifully reported all day long by all media channels. Larger than life images were aired again and again for all to see. India walked the legendary red carpet in more ways than one. Bollywood heroes and little slum kids in smart tuxedos and designer dresses walked side by side. For a few hours at least all differences seemed to have been forgotten.
I do not know how long the Slumdog euphoria will last. How long will it take for India to slink back into its usual indifference. And quite frankly I do not know what the real excitement is really all about. Slumdog was undoubtedly an excellent film and deserved all the kudos. it got but what I ask myself is whether anyone really looked and saw what lay behind the stunning pictures and lilting music. What actually set my thoughts this way was the reaction of a friend after he saw the film. He was simply horrified at the blinding scene in the film and was aghast to learn that this was the rule rather than the exception. And I guess this must have been the reaction of many, as in India we rarely look beyond what we want to see.
I watched the film again, this time trying to look beyond the glitz and glare, and realised that Slumdog Millionaire touched upon many issues that I have tried to highlight for many years now be it the abhorring plight of the beggar racket, or the desperate predicament of women caught in the spiral of the flesh trade, or the hijacked childhood of little children born at the wrong time in the wrong place. The film touched upon these issues in a poignant way but then follows its course and transcends into a story of love and hope, culminating in its Kodak moment both in the film and in reality: the boy getting his girl on a railway platform or the final walk on a red carpet!
My story does not end there. I have tried over the years and to the best of my ability to take the story further and highlight the uncomfortable reality that permeates our social fabric. What I mean is vindicated in the success of Slumdog Millionaire. It has taken a film made by an outsider to see what lay under our noses. I only hope that we are able to keep on looking and seeing.