Slums are also referred
to as creative and sustainable space of informal economy. Slums are promoted as
destination sites by visual attention. The tourist gaze is enticed by signs,
symbols, and images that aim to inspire investment and secure commitments to
travel and sightseeing. The analysis in the essay above explains how there are
several themes that become important when studying slum imaginaries. The
analysis does not do complete justice to the complexities of slums. Both the
movies provide foretastes and hints about the toxic realities of life of the
people in slums.
Krishna, in another scene of the movie is
forced by the homeless children in the slum to play “juha” in which the boys
talk about Sola Saal (a new prostitute) in room 109. A displaced boy says “wo
aik dum fit, chikni hai wo.” Krishna is mocked by his friends of how he
supports Sola Saal and consoles her when she is treated violently by the man
and women in the prostitution business.
Sola Saal in the movie is forcefully
taken by man to a woman where 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 non-willingness
which clearly indicates how women in slums are not given any agency.
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 a temporary safe which his friend
made for him in the wall. Unfortunately, Krishna’s friend stole all the money that
ultimately forced Krishna to turn his life to crime.
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.
In addition, other scene in the movie
in which 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.”
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-built 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.
iconicity’s 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).
T. S. Eliot’s Rat’s Alley.2 Yet this city would still be globally connected. It
would possess at least a modicum of commercial linkages, and some of its
inhabitants would have access to the world’s most modern communication and computing
technologies. It would, in effect, be a feral city. This clearly illustrate
that slums are not just spaces with dirt, opaqueness, filth but they are spaces
where terrorism is widespread and where terrorism is spreading like a disease.
a great metropolis covering hundreds of square miles. Once a vital component in
a national economy, this sprawling urban environment is now a vast collection
of blighted buildings, an immense petri dish of both ancient and new diseases,
a territory where the rule of law has long been replaced by near anarchy in
which the only security available is that which is attained through brute power.
Such cities have been routinely imagined in apocalyptic movies and in certain
science-fiction genres, where they are often portrayed as gigantic versions
Slum as pathological space of
After Krishna consoled Sola Saal, he
moves out in the streets of the slum. The scene shows the locality 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 for these people residing in the slums to get inflicted with
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. Hence, this portrays
disorientation, unsanitary, perplexity, confusion and contamination in slums. These
aspects of the slums are stereotypical in the chase scene that is continuously
reminding the viewers about how slums signify filth and dirt.
The scene in the movie in which Amitabh
Bachan’s helicopter arrives and Salim in order to take 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 is the hole where all the excreted
wastage gathers. He didn’t find it filthy at all and confidently made his way
to meet Amitabh Bachan.
“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 thrown 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.
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
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).
as a threatening space of spreading diseases
Jamal in Slum Dog Millionaire, not only Krishna in Salaam Bombay 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 life of children on the street of
Bombay. Struggle for survival is the main problem in the film around which the
entire story revolves. Character’s struggle to search job, job situations,
coercion, lower salaries and extensive hours of work signifies intensive
struggle and life in poverty of the characters in the slums.
invites visual intimacy with the signposts of poverty, such exhibits also reify
machinations of race and difference (racializing cities). Classism is evidently visualized in Slum Dog
Millionaire which is the result of poverty in a worldwide economy. In the
movie, Jamal instead of his name, is continuously called 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 in the movie.
Slum Dog Millionaire, Boyle provides the Westerners with a sign of India’s
reality 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.
In The Challenge of
Slums: Global Report on Human Settlements of 2003, United Nation enlightens the
notion of slums by stating that “slums are a physical and spatial
manifestation of urban poverty and intra-city inequality.” Similarly, Kanth and
Harris (2004) state that 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. 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 Salaam Bombay, Krishna is
sent by his mother to a circus in order to earn money but since he couldn’t
find work in the circus he made the trip to Bombay’s slum.
as a depiction of Poverty
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 movie was
signified throughout the chase scene. Salaam Bombay shows infrastructure of
slum as the same as modern/contemporary city of Bombay. Slums is shown with the
city like cars, railways etc which can be connected to infra-friendliness.
scene completely shows how difficult it is for the security guards to navigate
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 is the opposite of 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 in
the slum. This scene in the movie shows that the infuriated security guards understood
the aspects of slums that they are not aware of. This is the physical structure
of the slum from which the guards and police are estranged, regardless of their
everyday happenstance with it.
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 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).
as a congested space
imaginaries are manufactured for global western consumption and shaped by a new
politics of visibility that tend to revivify long established colonial and
orientalist trope. According to Jones and Sanyal (2014), For participants of
slums, the seeing, walking through, smelling and touching ‘poverty’, the
disorientation of the maze-like alleys, the move through darkened buildings,
the cacophony of noise and different languages, the sting of smoke, provide the
tours with a corporeal power, a sense of poverty that demands to be engaged
with in order to be understood. The above certainly gives an idea of what the slum
imaginaries are, how slums look and what one experiences while living in these
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 in these texts.
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 Rs.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 becomes 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 a
mainstream British romantic drama directed by Danny Boyle in 2008 that focuses
on three poor displaced children from slums of Mumbai. It is mainly 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 was 20 million rupees but unfortunately when the show airs that
night the police arrested him and accused him of cheating. In order to prove
his innocence Jamal tells his real-life experiences which gave him hint to
answer those questions. His brother Salim, however believed that life of crime
is perfect and can help him attain everything 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.
In this paper, I compare
and contrast Slumdog Millionaire and Salaam Bombay in their portrayals of
Indian children who live in slums. Several themes emerge from both the movies
that I will discuss in this essay. Gilbert (2007) mentions that according to
World Bank/UNCHS, Hundreds of millions of urban poor in the developing and transitional
world have few options but to live in squalid, unsafe environments where they
face multiple threats to their health and security. Slums and squatter
settlements lack the most basic infrastructure and services. Their populations
are marginalized and largely disenfranchised. They are exposed to disease,
crime and vulnerable to natural disasters. Slum and squatter settlements are growing
at alarming rates, projected to double in 25 years.
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