22nd November, 2014
‘Everything around us is roses,
And we’re the shit in between’
In ‘Behind the Beautiful Forevers’, the lives of the poor are disposable. This is India, a country where the per capita annual income is only about £800; 70% live in slums, and have limited access to electricity, clean water, food, and educational opportunities. Slum children work as rag pickers, sewage cleaners and other unhealthy and dangerous jobs all around Mumbai, earning a few rupees a day in order to stave off their families’ hunger: the need is beyond understanding.
My only modern media image of slums in India is through films such as’ Slumdog Millionaire’ and ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’, but ‘Behind the Beautiful Forevers’ reminds me more of novels such as ‘A Fine Balance’ or ‘White Tiger’. The energetic script is an adaptation by David Hare of the Pulitzer prizewinning , Jennifer Boo ‘s non-fictional account of more than three years spent investigating and documenting life in the settlement of Annawadi by the main runway at Mumbai airport.
So, we have the setting: a city of contrasts, where immense wealth and extreme poverty are seldom apart.
Strangely though, optimism lies with the nearby airport; a source of some options for success – in waste and recyclable scavenging, in metal thievery, and, for a lucky few, regular service jobs in the hotels. A wall plastered with the words of an Italian tile company (beautiful forever … beautiful forever) provides the irony of recyclable trash. Schemes are fragile and global recession threatens the garbage trade. Continue reading Behind the Beautiful Forevers