Monday, 15 February 2010

U-bend Theology

I finally watched Slumdog Millionaire at the weekend and there is one image that I can’t shake from my mind. The film tells the story of Jamal, an 18 year-old orphan from Mumbai, who is one question away from 20 million rupees on India’s version of ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?’. In an early flash back scene a very young Jamal is locked in an outdoor toilet by his brother. Jamal is desperate to escape so that he can get the autograph of a famous film star who has just arrived in the area. The only way out is to jump into the pit full of excrement beneath the toilet in order to see his hero. Jamal takes the plunge, emerges from the pit covered in liquid faeces and pushes through the crowd to gain his prize of the star’s signature.

slumdog-millionaire The toilet scene is a powerful metaphor for the whole film; Jamal’s life is a perpetual struggle through all the crap that the world can throw at him: his mother murdered, scraping a living on the refuse tips of the city, exploited by others for financial gain, humiliated for public entertainment and continually betrayed by his older brother Salim. The publicity around the film gave the impression it was a comedy and the cover of the DVD quotes a review saying it’s ‘the feel good movie of the year’, but there is nothing funny about the grim realities of life that Jamal has to endure. A film in which children are deliberately blinded to increase their begging potential is no laughing matter, though there are great touches of humour throughout and a moving portrayal of love and faithfulness in Jamal’s relationship with his childhood sweetheart Latika. The film is well made and brilliantly acted, yet, the underlying theme of redemption and freedom through money is disturbing.

trainspottingAnyway, back to Jamal and the toilet. This is not the first time toilets have featured in a Danny Boyle movie; in Trainspotting Renton, a drug addict played by Ewan McGregor, dives into a filthy toilet to retrieve his bag of heroin. The scene is also reminiscent of Andy in The Shawshank Redemption finally escaping captivity via the sewage system of his prison.

What the scene from Slumdog Millionaire brings to mind is a comment made by a speaker, I think it may have been Gerard Kelly, at Spring Harvest a couple of years ago. He spoke of Christianity having a U-bend Theology, like the U-bend of a toilet. It is through the dirt and mess of the world that God has shown us his love and made known his grace and forgiveness in Jesus. Christianity is not a faith of escapism for it is founded on belief in one who entered the world in all its beauty and filth and went through Good Friday, executed on a rubbish tip, in order to reconcile us to God. Observing the season of Lent reminds me that it is in and through the realities of life and death that we move towards Easter and resurrection. Christianity is a U-bend Theology.

1 comment:

BanksyBoy said...

Excellent analysis... glad to see someone with the same reaction to the film as me.

I felt I 'had' to watch it, doubt I will ever watch again, apart from the credits at the end with the great Bollywood music and dance sequence, that was the only truly redemptive section for me ;-)