been watching at home instead of in the theatre, I would certainly have fidgeted,
or made myself a coffee, or found something else to do, anything to pause, to
delay, to avoid. So often, in India, there is not much else one can do. The body
reacts to helplessness.
which was awarded four Golden Globes (including Best drama) by the Hollywood
Foreign Press Association on January 11,
depicts the culture of the Mumbai slums, where about 40%-50% of the city lives.
The story is centred on a tea-server, Jamal, who attempts to win 20 million
rupees in the Indian version of "Who wants to be a millionaire?" His real
aspiration in participating in the program, however, is the possibility that by
appearing on television, he might be located by his long-lost love, Latika, who
earlier in the film, when they were both still in the orphanage, was sent out to
be a prostitute.
Is Jamal destined to be a millionaire? Is he destined to be reunited with his
true love? Can Latika be rescued from her sordid life?
The Unbearable Harshness of Being (in India)
film has to supply the ingredients to satisfy the audience's need for a
pleasurable experience. If it's an Indian film, that invariably means music and
dancing. This film shows the tea-server, Jamal, as a complete and utter
gentleman, and Latika, the prostitute, as a perfect lady. Viewers also must
leave the theatre with hope and positivity, and this is what this film provided.
If I had to split hairs and find a flaw, it is that this film must coat its
harsh reality with sugar to help the medicine to go down.
I used to have a maid in
Delhi, an extremely beautiful 30-year-old woman. She had, I recall, around six or seven kids. The youngest was the only son. I remember advising her to send
her children to school. Once, she did not show up for two weeks, and when I finally
saw her again, one side of her face was blue and so swollen that she could not
open her eye. She told me her husband had beaten her because he had suspected
her of having a relationship with another man. She then told me that when she
was only 14 years old, she had been abducted by her "husband" and kept in
confinement for many years after, which is when she bore most of her children.