One of the benefits of the success of Slumdog Millionaire is that it is raising awareness of the plight of children who live in poverty. Personally, I have been approached by many people asking if the scenes in the film are realistic.
Are there children in India who really live like that? Are there really organized rings that make a business of children begging on the street? Surely the maiming of a young child - the very difficult scene to watch in the movie - cannot be a reality? The answer, of course, is yes. Yes, children in India - and in many parts of the world - live and die in this reality.
The power of Slumdog Millionaire is that Danny Boyle has captured, in quite an amazing way, the spirit of of the back alleys and slums that many people wish they could ignore. And, not only has he shown the reality of dire poverty, he has also shown the vibrance, the survival instinct and the hope for these children. My brother, Gotham, and Danny Boyle, the director of Slumdog Millionaire chatted about Dharvi, the vast, ever expanding slum city where his story takes place. As you listen to their conversation, I hope you take away the hope and magic, as well as the challenges that life has to offer. (The entire conversation is here. The clip about the children and Dharvi is here.)
Several years ago, I came across a blog by a remarkable woman, Anouradha Bakshi, who started an organization, Project Why, to support the education of children living in poverty in Delhi. I visited, with my two young daughters, the few rooms where she provides education and care for children who have the potential to succeed, but are faced with dire odds to even survive. From mentally challenged kids who have no where else to go to children who need heart transplants to toddlers whose mothers are doing anything they can to survive, Anouradha has given a name, a face and a story to these beautiful souls. I was so moved by her work that I donated 10% of the gross proceeds that I received from my book, 100 Questions to My Child to Project Why. What I liked about her efforts is that she is totally grassroots... so much so that she is often struggling to meet the needs of just one more child. I encourage you to learn more about Project Why, or other such organizations, and if you are moved, make a donation.
Times are tough around the world as we begin the new year. However, my hope is that as we each think about our own personal intentions, we also remember the larger global community that is often struggling just to survive one more day.
If I could vote for the Golden Globes, my vote for Best Director definitely goes to Danny Boyle and Best Musical Score to our friend, AR Rahman! Not only is it a powerful movie, it tells a story that has definitely moved many people to look at the world differently.
Mallika Chopra blogs regularly at Intent.com