Slumdog Millionaire: Community Producers’ reality hits mainstream

I am truly surprised at the film that is on everyone’s mind right now and the fact that it happened to be shot just 30 minutes away from my home in Mumbai, India. Slumdog Millionaire is an energetic film with an interesting storyline and was shot entirely in two locations that are close to where I live – the world’s largest slum, Dharavi, and in slum areas of Juhu. These locations are also near the homes of many of Channel 19 community producers, and for some of them like Venkatesh, these locations are their home!

Perhaps I am out of the loop, but it does feel like the film just popped up out of nowhere and bagged 5 of the 6 awards at the Critics Choice Awards and then went on to be the star film at the Golden Globe Awards this year. The film picked up awards for Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay and most notably, for Best Music Score – awarded to the famous South Indian composer, A.R. Rahman.
So does this put India on the map? Finally, an Indian artist who is ‘behind the scenes’ is granted an international award? And more importantly, finally here’s a film which does not profile the villages of remote India exotifying ‘the east’ nor does it show-off the glitz and glam which only a small percentile of the upper-crust in India can relate to but everyone dreams of. Instead, this film shows the reality of modern India by portraying life in the slums and speaking with and working with slumdwellers rather than hiring actors and researchers. The writer of the book, Vikas Swarup, had done quite a lot of research and used the help of student director (perhaps someone who is like one of our community producers?) to find out more about the realities of the slums in Mumbai. To top that up, supposedly, the screenwriter, Simon Beaufoy made three research trips to India and interviewed street children, finding himself impressed with their attitudes.

I’d like to share these realities through some of the videos made by Channel 19 producers about living conditions in slums in Mumbai.

Check out the video above about “Black Day in Dharavi” made by Hamari Awaaz CVU. It is a silent protest about housing rights in the megaslum, Dharavi, which is one of the shooting locations of Slumdog Millionaire.

Overall, Slumdog Millionaire, the film, is an important evolvement in mainstream filmmaking as well as for the Channel 19 network of community producers. Its popularity and acceptance in the mainstream world means that there is room in between all the glitz and the fantasy of fiction films for content that is closer to social realities such as poverty and corruption in India.

I only wish that people in Mumbai were more familiar with the film and that while Danny Boyles’ team was out on location shooting, our community producers from Apna TV and Hamari Awaaz community video units, had been there! They would have been great on the film and been able to empower the communities in the slum as Danny Boyle and his U.K based production team wouldn’t have been the only ones shooting! Nevertheless, the producers at Channel 19 are always engaged within their communities and will never miss out on an opportunity to educate people.

Here’s an example of that in this video about slum conditions in Ahmedabad, another major city of India. The producers at Samvad CVU have used this video to educate slumdwellers on how to ask the government for their basic amenities such as toilets!

Written by VV’s online manager Ruchika Muchhalla.

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