Tag Archives: slums

Slums and Slumdogs

21 Feb

Just last week I finally got round to seeing Danny Boyle’s film Slumdog Millionaire, a film I liked and that touched a couple of memory nerves. I spent about 3 weeks in Mumbai in April 2007, and got into the habit of watching Who Wants to be a Millionaire (with its actual – and far more handsome – host, Shahrukh Khan) every evening with my landlady. I also went several times to Dharavi, the slum where the popular movie was partially filmed and home to one of the committees inside the social movement I was studying there, the National Slum Dwellers Federation. in fact, one chapter of my book, The Success of Poverty, is devoted to this large (some 2 million members) and vibrant grassroots movement.

Today my local paper carried an article criticizing the movie for the way “it grossly minimizes the capabilities and even the basic humanity of those it claims to speak for.” The article was written by Mitu Sengupta, an assistant professor at Toronto’s Ryerson University, for whom the film “delivers a patronizing and ultimately sham statement on social justice for” the poor who live in Dharavi.

I understand both the necessities of film-making (and its inherent time constraints) as well as the views of the author. Dharavi is indeed a place where people work, live, run businesses of all sizes, organize and struggle collectively for a better life. This was apparent in the various interviews I did with members of NSDF, and in the entire global movement of slum dwellers, grouped into an global organization called Shack/Slum Dwellers International. Readers can check out its website at http://www.sdinet.org.

And they can read an article I wrote about Dharavi and some interesting architectural designs students at the KRVIA have come up with for rehousing slum dwellers.