An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Trivia on SlumDog Millionaire

  • Vishy Anand, the World Chess Champion talks of where the story in the book on which Slumdog Millionaire was based on may have been inspired. It was a real experiment done in a slum by the Indian IT company NIIT, where a computer was left in a village and the experimenters just observed how the kids used it. Within an hour they were able to switch it on and use the mouse and start point-and-click.. and by the evening, the kids had learnt to browse. More on that at the bottom of this post (along with Vishy’s interview on video).
  • Boot Polish was one of the first movies to explore the theme of organized begging in India in detail. It was directed by Prakash Arora and Produced by Raj Kapoor.
  • Mercedes-Benz asked that its logos be removed in scenes taking place in the slums. The company, according to Danny Boyle, did not want to be associated with the poverty-stricken area, fearing that that might taint its image.
  • The actor whose autograph young Jamal gets is Amitabh Bachchan. Amitabh Bachchan is a very real, and very famous Indian actor, the original host of the Indian version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”, and also the father-in-law of Aishwarya Rai (or Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan as she is known after marriage).
  • The cricket match being shown on television in Javed’s house is the 1st one day international of the Future Cup between India and South Africa played at Civil Service Cricket Club, Stormont, Belfast on June 26 2007. As shown in the movie, Sachin Tendulkar, the Indian batsman, was run out on 99. India went on to score 242 and South Africa won the match by 4 wickets with 3 balls remaining.
  • The film used a prototype Digital Cinema Camera from Silicon Imaging. When used in Mumbai, there were SI technicians on set constantly to deal with any problems the prototype had, of which there were many.
  • Director Danny Boyle placed the money to be paid to the 3 lead child actors in a trust that is to be released to them upon their completion of grade school at 16 years of age. The production company has set up for an auto-rikshaw driver to take the kids to school everyday until they are 16 years old.

  • Some of the top Indian Directors who have explored the poverty themes in India have been Satyajit Ray, Raj Kapoor, Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Aravindan, Kumar Shahani, Mani Kaul, Buddhaheb Dasgupta, Aparna Sen, Gautam Ghose, Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Shaji Karun, Vijaya Mehta, Ketan Mehta. They are very well known and Satyajit Ray also won an Oscar Academy Honorary Award in 1992. Some notable Indian movies on this topic are: Ankur, Pather Panchali, Manthan etc.
  • Chris Tarrant, the host of the UK version of ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’ featured in Danny Boyle’s debut film Shallow Grave (1995). He appears as the host of another TV quiz show ‘Lose A Million’ but only on a TV screen.
  • In the opening chase scene where Jamal and Salim jump down from a building to the ground is an reference to Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting (1996) in which the main character Renton jumps down into the frame at a drug dealers to eventually overdose on heroin.
  • In the scene where the adult Salim’s phone rings soon after the adult Jamal finds him, the ringtone is part of the theme music from A.R. Rahman’s work on the Indian movie Swades: We, the People (2004). Rahman is the music composer for Slumdog Millionaire.
  • The current exchange rate for 20,000,000 Rupees (the grand prize on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”) is USD$411,600.
  • The film was originally intended to receive a PG-13 rating. In the end, it received an R rating because of its intense tone. With no time or money for appeals, the film was released with its given rating.
  • Approximately 20% of the movie’s dialog is in Hindi (with English subtitles).
  • The second Danny Boyle film to feature a protagonist diving into a toilet, after Trainspotting (1996).
  • The pile of excreta that the young Jamal jumps into and was made from a combination of peanut butter and chocolate.
  • When Salim goes to Javed’s den to announce that he has killed Maman, the movie playing in the theatre nearby is the Sunil Shetty starrer Maseeha (2002). Mahesh Manjrekar, who plays Javed, made his acting debut in Kaante (2002), which was released exactly a week after ‘Maseeha’.

Here is what this Hole-in-the-wall experiment achieved (Source: PBS):

Dr. Mitra heads research and development at NIIT, a leading computer software and training company in New Delhi. Just outside his office is a wall that separates his air-conditioned 21st-century office from a slum. Mitra decided to place a high-speed computer in the wall, connect it to the Internet, and watch who, if anyone, might use it. To his delight, curious children were immediately attracted to the strange new machine. “When they said, ‘Can we touch it?'” Mitra recalls, “I said, ‘It’s on your side of the wall.’ The rules say whatever is on their side, they can touch, so they touched it.”

Within minutes, children figured out how to point and click. By the end of the day they were browsing. “Given access and opportunity,” observes O’Connor, “the children quickly taught themselves the rudiments of computer literacy.”

One boy in particular, Rajinder, has become a computer whiz and a celebrity in India. “Mainly I go to the Disney site,” Rajinder tells FRONTLINE/World, but he also regularly visits news sites and likes to use computer paint tools. His teacher says that Rajinder is a much better student now: “He has become quite bold and expressive. I’ve got great hopes for this child.”

When Dr. Mitra asks Rajinder to define the Internet, the doe-eyed boy replies immediately, “That with which you can do anything.”

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