Rajinikanth, the Tamil superstar rocks it in Mumbai, the city of dreams for his forthcoming film, Kaala.
Mumbai, formerly Bombay, is a big city full of dreamers and hard-labourers, starlets and gangsters, stray dogs and exotic birds, artists and servants, fisherfolk and crorepatis (millionaires), and lots and lots of people. It has India’s most prolific film industry, some of Asia’s biggest slums (as well as the world’s most expensive homes) and the largest tropical forest in an urban zone. Mumbai is India’s financial powerhouse, fashion epicentre and a pulse point of ethnic mingling.
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Kaala, Rajinikanth’s forthcoming film, is set in Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum. He plays a ganglord all the way from Tirunelveli, a southern city in Tamil Nadu.
Mumbaikars were ambivalent about the stereotypes in 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire, but slums are very much a part of Mumbai city life. An astonishing 60% of Mumbai’s population lives in slums and one of the city’s largest slums is Dharavi, originally inhabited by fisherfolk when the area was still creeks, swamps and islands. It became attractive to migrant workers from South Mumbai and beyond when the swamp began to fill in due to natural and artificial causes. It now incorporates 2.2 sq km of land sandwiched between Mumbai’s two major railway lines, and is home to perhaps as many as a million people.
Some parts of Dharavi have mixed populations, but in other parts inhabitants from different regions of India, and with different trades, have set up homes and tiny factories. Some of these thriving industries, as many as 20,000 in all, export their wares, and the annual turnover of business from Dharavi is thought to exceed USD 700 million.
Many families have been here for generations, and educational achievements are higher than in many rural areas: around 15% of children complete their higher education and find white-collar jobs. Many choose to stay, though, in the neighbourhood they grew up in.
Slum tourism remains a polarising subject. Rajinikanth, in ‘Kaala’, is set to bring alive the many people of Dharavi in a film most eagerly awaited by his fans.
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