The Slumdog Children of Mumbai

Moving Image
Created: 2010


The Slumdog Children of Mumbai
Summary: "The Slumdog Children of Mumbai was commissioned and funded by Channel 4 (UK) to be screened as a counterpoint to the TV premiere of the movie Slumdog Millionaire. The brief for production company True Vision, was to present the unvarnished reality of life for children living in the slums and on the streets of Mumbai.

"Shot over 3 months, through the tropical monsoon, the film tells the stories of 4 children. Working in the slums required considerable setting up, and it took Director Nick Read and his co-producer Batul Mukhtiar several weeks to gain the trust of the children, their families and community leaders.

"We found the youngest, 7-year-old Deepa, dodging traffic at one of the city's busiest traffic junctions, selling roses. Abondoned by her mother, Deepa is forced to become child carer to her infant brother.

"11 year old twins Hussan & Hussein are residents of the 'pipeline' slum; a dark, dangerous ghetto where they are forced to 'ragpick' (collect refuse) from a filthy canal to eke out a living.

"We met Salaam outside the world's busiest railway station, Victoria Terminus, days after he had run away. Fleeing abuse at home, he soon experiences a different form of abuse: he falls under the influence of a gang of older boys who introduce him to drugs and begin sexually abusing him.

"The film offers a poignant testament to the bravery and infinite resilience of children who are forced to reach adulthood long before they should.

"To win the trust of disadvantaged and often distrustful children in Mumbai's slums, the producers were intent on working in as low a profile as possible using the smallest possible kit. To acquire genuinely observational material required endless patience.

"Scheduling was a nightmare - these kids don't have mobile phones, rarely sleep in the same place, and during the monsoon Mumbai can come to a standstill. Many planned shoot days were written off, and the health risks of working in open sewers were considerable. But that's where some of our kids worked, so we followed.

"Filming with children anywhere, and especially unaccompanied kids living rough, poses exceptional ethical questions, not least to gain their informed consent. We set out to 'give them the microphone', and let them tell their stories in their own words.

"On the evening of transmission the film had an unprecedented response. Over 30,000 people went online at Channel 4's programme website to articulate their response and to offer financial support for the children. With over 2.5 million viewers, it became the highest rated episode in 2010's season of Dispatches.

"Making this film was an emotional experience for everyone. The producers are determined to extend a duty of care which goes beyond the end of filming and transmission. True Vision set up a Foundation to fund the education and future welfare of the 4 children. Over $35000 was raised in the first month after transmission. Director Nick Read has returned to Mumbai to help find school places for the boys, and we have funded the rebuilding of Deepa's home.

"It's a drop in the ocean, but we continue to care for the 4 children until they can fend for themselves, and do what we can to ensure their well being."--2010 Peabody Awards entry form.

Corporate Producers: True Vision Productions | Channel Four (Great Britain)

Broadcast Date: 2010-01-21