Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Channel 4 goes slum-dogging
Slumdog Millionaire was supposed to be a fresh, bold and imaginative narrative about contemporary India. Now, it has become an easy cliché for the lazy western media to approach the country.
Why else would four of the seven programmes that together make Channel 4’s “Indian Winter” series refer to the movie in one way or the other: Slumdog Millionaire, Slumming It, Slumdog Secret Millionaire and Slumdog Children of Mumbai?
Many years ago, I saw a documentary about Dharavi: one of the gazillion films made about the slum with the dubious, and probably untrue, reputation of being Asia’s largest. In it, Bhau Korde, a 71-year-old Dharavi resident and social activist acidly observed that all his life he had seen journalists walking in and around Dharavi with their jholas and notepads, and yet, not a thing had actually improved in the slum.
Danny Boyle was not the first to make his career on Dharavi. Many journalists, writers, documentary film makers, art film directors, social workers made their name off the slum before him. And now Channel 4 hopes to join the brigade.
Will this attention change a thing inside Indian slums? Sadly, I think not.
The Indian Winter starts tomorrow on Channel 4 with - believe this or die - Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire. (When taking a break from Slumdog cliches, the series will explore another cliche, Gordon Ramsay, who will experiment with Indian cuisine this time.)