Somewhat appropriately timed in this big freeze that has blanketed the UK, next week sees Channel 4 launch its Indian Winter season of film, features, drama, and factual programming, celebrating and examining the dual beauty and tragedy of modern-day India. Amidst a backdrop of a vibrant and radiant culture, typified by the epic soundtracks and melodramatic stories of Bollywood, as well as the buzzing atmosphere and imagery of its sizzling and aromatic culinary delights, there is the uncomfortable and stark reality of a huge country still trying to find its way in the 21st century, characterized in some part, by the poverty of millions of Indians living in slums. And that’s not considering the unaccountable homeless, drifting across the subcontinent like invisible ghosts. This is contemporary India all at once captivating and humbling all the same.
The season kicks of with the heartwarming and very filmi Slumdog Millionaire, a story about an average street child by the name of Jamal Malik who manages to escape the slums of Mumbai and eventually secure a seat on India’s version of Who Want’s to Be a Millionaire. Danny Boyle’s love story, scored beautifully by A. R. Rahman, is an atypical love story of sadness and desperation as lived through the innocent eyes of children who manage to, despite all the odds, bring laughter and mischief into their lives. A superb film that is full of the most understated and bravura performances.
The season then continues with Gordon Ramsay sampling the food on offer in India, whilst, I imagine, educating those he meets in the fine art of using ‘fuck’ as a perfectly suitable word for any occasion. Then there’s an interesting documentary from Kevin McCloud, who pits his architectural expertise and opinion against the radically contrasting structures that prop up Mumbai, finding, I’m sure, some quirky and innovative designs that work both visually and compositionally. Along with a special Secret Millionaire, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? some Bollywood movies, there’s a Dispatches special that tells the story of four ‘slumdog’ children surviving in brutal, grueling, and desperate conditions.
The Indian Winter season starts Wed 13th January at 9pm on Channel 4.
For more information visit Channel 4.