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Introduction

Slum Dog Millionaire is a mainstream British romantic
drama directed by Danny Boyle in 2008 that focuses on three poor displaced
children from slums of Mumbai. It is a story of an 18-year-old orphan named
Jamal Malik who belongs to a Mumbai’s Juhu slums. Jamal is experiencing a life
changing event in his life because he just needs to answer one question in a
famous Indian show Kaun Banega Crorepati? (Who wants to be a Millionaire?). How
did he do it? (A) He cheated, (B) He’s lucky, (C) He’s a genius, and (D) It is
written” (Boyle, 2008). The reward for the right answer is 20 million rupees
but unfortunately when the show airs that night the police arrests him and
accused him of cheating. In order to prove his innocence Jamal tells his
real-life experiences which gave him hint to answer the questions. His brother
Salim, however believed that life of crime is perfect and can help him attain
what he needs in life. The story in this movie is extremely inspiring and
encouraging but not every story of these children in slums is as inspiring as
this.

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Salaam Bombay is a 1998 Hindi film directed by Maira
Nair. This movie is about Krishna who destroys his elder brother’s motorbike as
a result of his constant mistreatment. Krishna’s mother sends him to the circus
and tells him not to return home until he can pay 500 as a reimbursement to the
loss of motorbike. Krishna finds out that the circus has left hence, instead of
returning to his mother he travels to the Bombay’s poorest slums. Later on, in
the movie, he become friend with a young prostitute Sola Saal and a drug dealer
called Chillum while he works at a road tea stall to earn enough money that he
can return for his brother’s loss.

Slum Dog Millionaire is made by a Westerner, therefore
the story is portrayed and described from the American lens which also includes
capitalism. The portrayals of the life of these children in both the visual
texts are mere reality but both of them have intensely different endings. The
comparative visual analysis of the primary data (movies) will allow me to
uncover various themes that coincide with the idea of slums. The main focus
will be to evaluate how the slums depicts poverty, shows pathology and crime or
violence as well as chaos.

Slums as depiction of chaos

The entrance to these bustees are many, but not easily
discoverable, whilst the paths are so narrow and tortuous that it is dif?cult
for a stranger to ?nd his way through them. The huts are huddled together in
masses and pushed to the very edge of the ponds,the intervening spaces,… are
converted into necessaries and used by both sexes in common (Chatopaadeyy,
Culcutta).

In the appealing and fetching chase through the slums
of Juhu, the filmmaker theatres visual-spatial complexity of the slums while
familiarizing the spectator to the characters. This can be visually depicted in
the scene from the movie when Jamal drops a catch as the aircraft leaps up from
behind and two safekeeping guards in the motorbike with a stick in their hand,
yelling “private ka-land” “Chalo bhago yaha se” chase the boys and the chase endures
the airfield. The boys run as fast as they could making fun of the security
guards giving them thumbs down and yelling “the dogs are coming”. The boys jump
off the garbage dump along the sewer lines that demarcate the slum. Moreover,
the boys past rotten pool and tin roofs along thin lanes that indicate their way
through homes. The boys run here and there in a way that they are able to make
their way to their mother’s arms without any difficulties.

The scene completely shows how difficult it is for the
security guards to follow through the chaos, obstructed, jammed and congested
area of slums. However, the children of the slum didn’t have to think for a
second where to go as they were so used to the physical structure of the slum. The
scene shows how these kids are running to their homes without any fear or
tension. They are all smiling and laughing while they make their way to their homes.
This scene highlights how lives of elite people are opposite from those who
live in slums. These children who live in slums have no open field of their own
and they infringe on open spaces which are not permitted to use. This clearly
shows the comparison between open space of air traffic with the thin overfilled
and jammed lanes and streets in the slum. This visuality in the movie shows
that the infuriated security guards understood the aspects of slums that they
are not aware of. The physical structure of the slum from which the guards and
police are estranged, regardless of their everyday happenstance with it.

Salaam Bombay’s opening scene shows how slum is
disorganized and messy with everything muddled up. But unlike Slum Dog
Millionaire, this movie does not portray intense congestion of the slum
throughout the movie which in the Oscar winning was signified through the chase
scene.

Slum as Poverty

Despite its rapidly industrializing state, India
continues to face challenges associated with poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy,
and poor public healthcare (Chandra, 2009; Metcalf & Metcalf, 2006). This
means that no matter how strong familial bonds are, they are insufficient to
combat the realities of poverty for Indian street children. Similarly, Kanth
and Harris (2004) state, “children who are vulnerable to street life include
those who have been abandoned by their families or sent into cities because of
a family’s intense poverty, often with hopes that a child will be able to earn
money for the family and send it home” (p. 3). Therefore, family poverty
usually means that their children are vulnerable economically, educationally,
and in terms of healthcare. A poor family means children often have less food,
less access to formal education, and less access to clean water.

In Slum Dog Millionaire, Boyle provides the Westerners
with a sigh of reality of India which is close to the third world poverty.
According to me, the film uses overdramatic and overemotional styles to upsurge
mindfulness of scarcity on children in India. Moreover, Jamal and Salim
throughout the movie represent poverty that is signified clearly from their
clothes, the area that they live in, the way they talk and the way they are
treated in the movie.

Classism is evidently visualized in Slum Dog
Millionaire which in the result of poverty in a worldwide economy. In the
movie, Jamal instead of his name, is continuously is called as a “chai wallah”
in various scenes of the movie. Which clearly indicates that he is referred to
as someone who belongs to a low-class family and not from an elite class. When
Jamal is inspected and examined by the police officer in the movie, he asserts
that “Because I’m a slumdog chai wallah, I’m a cheat, right?” To this question,
the police officer answers that, “Most of you are” (Slumdog Millionaire 2008).
This class status was the core reason he was bashed with adverse and negative
comments when he got a job.

Unlike Slum Dog Millionaire, not only Krishna in the
movie represents poverty. Every character in the film is a mere representation
of poor life. Krishna constantly informs the viewers that he needs to earn Rs.
500 in order to return back home and repay his mother. Krishna’s friend steals
money which ultimately shows how scarcity is prevailed in slums and Chillum is
working as a drug seller to earn money. Sola Saal is forced to sell her
virginity and another prostitute (mother of Manju) is in love with a drug
pusher. The lives of each character in the film shows the lives of children on
the street of Bombay. Struggle for survival is the main problem in the film
around which the entire story revolves. Poverty can be visualized by
character’s struggle to search job, job situations, coercion, less payments and
extensive hours of work signifies intensive struggle and life in poverty of the
characters in the slums.

Slum as a depiction of pathology

A bustee or native
village generally consists of a mass of huts constructed without any plan or
arrangement, without roads, without drains, ill-ventilated, and never cleaned.
Most of these villages are the abodes of misery, vice, and ?lth, and the
nurseries of sickness and disease. In these bustees are found green and slimy
stagnant ponds, full of putrid vegetable and animal matter in a state of
decomposition and whose bubbling surfaces exhale, under a tropical sun, noxious
gases, poisoning the atmosphere and spreading disease and death. These ponds
supply the natives with water for domestic purposes and are often the
receptacles of ?lth (Chatopaadeyy, Culcutta).

The
condition of the bustees, Payne claimed, was as much due to the habits of the
poor tenants as to the apathy and negligence of the proprietors, who pro?ted
from the rents but cared little for public welfare. The native population
certainly paid the largest share of the taxes, but since they were indifferent
to death and disease, and did not recognize the relation between cleanliness
and health, it was up to the Municipality to teach them sanitary lessons
(Chatopaadeyy, Culcutta).

“Slum is a dirty word” therefore whenever we think about
a slum what we visualize is garbage, filth and a large number of people living
there. In
the chase scene, while the security guard makes his way through the narrow lane
to chase the boys he is bombarded with trash, cans and other filth by the
children who are on roof top. During the chase scene, a boy is also shown in
the water picking up the garbage from an extremely unclean filthy water.

The
scene in the movie in which Amitabh Bachan’s helicopter appears and Salim as a
revenge shuts the door of the rest-room from outside while Jamal is still
inside. Jamal found no other way then jumping inside the pond which has all
excreted wastage. He didn’t find it filthy at all and confidently made his way
to meet Amitabh Bachan.

Throughout
the movie, especially as the movie approaches the second half the camera zooms
out multiple times to show a bird’s eye view of the slum. This bird’s eye view shows
the conditions of the slum life which is a mixture of disorganized roof shapes,
unclean lanes, poor and dirty sewage line, narrow uncontaminated streets and
huts that are closely built. There number of people residing in slums.

After
Krishna consoled Sola Saal and he moves out in the streets of the slum. The
scene shows a view of the slum which is similar to that of Slum Dog
Millionaire. The unclean lanes, women are washing clothes on the streets with
buckets here and there, contaminated water all over the streets, shacks are
closely built with washed clothes hanging in such a way that they are half on
the unclean streets, water dripping from the roofs and people walking on the
filthy streets without slippers. All of this calls for a chance to get
inflicted with diseases in the future.

Slum
as a depiction of crime and violence

The
iconicities of the “black ghetto” capture this construct of the “savage” out of
place, a figuration of premodern victimhood steeped in violence and
dehumanization. Confined to “the racialized core of the U.S. metropolis”, the “ghetto”
is envisioned as a template of violence and illegality, as a negative social space
that breeds and reproduces criminality (dystopia).

The
prolonged length of the chase scene emphasizes brawl between the police and the
children depicting the routine violence and not something extraordinary. It
portrays as if this happening is an everyday and regular set of events which
clearly shows how slum in-builts violence. Another scene in the movie, in which
the mother drags the children to the school and the teacher threw the book on
the faces of the children and hit them accusing that they do not know how to
open the book. This clearly shows how life in slums create violence among the
people residing.

Another
scene in the movie, when a customer was waiting outside the rest-room while
Jamal was inside. The customer didn’t have enough patience and tired of
yelling, he took the money back from Salim who was the guarding the rest-room
hitting him so hard on his head and calling him “bloody idiot.”

While
Jamal was taking shower after getting Amitabh’s autograph, Salim stole the
autograph and secretly sold it for some money. As soon as Salim came out, Jamal
cried to which Salim responded, “He offered a good price, so I sold it.” This scene
clearly shows how telling lies and stealing was a regular business of the
children in slums.

The
violence and crime scenes in Salaam Bombay are much more extensive than those
shown in Slum Dog Millionaire. Krishna is forced to live on the streets of
slums with prostitutes, drug addicts and other displaced children. A man who
Krishna thought is his friend told him to save his hard-earned money in the
save which he made for him in the wall. Unfortunately, Krishna’s friend stole
all the money which ultimately forced Krishna to turn his life to crime. He
starts to smoke and do drug abuse.

Sola
Saal in the movie is forcefully taken by man to a woman and then she is sold
for her virginity. This prostitution business shown in the movie indicates how
life in slum promotes violence and crime. Sola Saal is beaten harshly and
forced to sell herself despite her willingness which clearly indicates how
women in slums are not given any agency.  Moreover, the other girls in the same area
were laughing at her observing everything from the window.

 Krishna, in
another scene of the movie is forced by the boys in the slum to play “juha” in
which the boys talk about a new prostitute in room 109. A boy says “wo aik dum
fit, chikni hai wo.” Krishna is ridiculed by his friends of how he supports
Sola Saal and consoles her when she is treated violently by the man and women
in prostitution business.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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