Last Night’s TV – Slumdog Secret Millionaire

by Lynn Connolly

Dharavi is getting an awful lot of media attention; the residents of that slum area must be very used to seeing camera crews, so it would’ve been no big shock to them to see yet another from Channel 4 filming this edition of Secret Millionaire.

And I have to say, I’ve never enjoyed this show, wherever it’s set. It’s always got a rather unpleasant taste about it. I’m not sure if it’s witnessing often egocentric generosity that gives me the irrits or thinking often during the various series that people so wealthy aren’t actually being as generous as they might be.

It smacks a little of crumbs from the master’s table. And I’m afraid this episode felt no different. More so perhaps in some ways.

It featured Seema Sharma, a wealthy lady who is of Indian origins but who’s spent the majority of her rather privileged life here in the UK. Educated at Roedean, she’s had a good eye for investments and has undoubtedly worked hard to get what she has, which is a lot. A gorgeous home, lovely cars… all you would expect from a multi-millionaire in fact.

And that she’s a very pleasant, very humble lady isn’t in question. She is and that came across well in this film, but even still, I can’t help but feel that it’s a question of relativity. What’s a vast amount of money to you and I, and especially the people in Dharavi, isn’t to someone who’s that wealthy.

Anyway, off she went one of the biggest and most infamous slum areas where residents scratch a living digging through piles of rubbish for things to sell and where sewage and rats run free in the streets.

Seema was given a flat as her temporary home, and despite her clearly being pretty horrified by the living conditions, that little flat was a veritable palace compared to the ‘shelter’ some live in day in day out.

She encountered one charity that particularly caught her eye, and it was one that would ultimately benefit from Seema’s generosity. It was one which worked with those forced to live and work at the dump site. To this charity – and its founder Annabel – Seema gave £25,000.

To Shefali who works at the dump and also volunteers at a crèche for the workers’ children, she gave £250 and four gold bangles worth £1000 as “insurance” against bad times. But for Shefali, are there any other times?

And to the charity that provides ‘mobile education’, Seema gave another £25,000, and finally to a homeless family – the father of whom was rather too fond of getting married and had made some rather ridiculous moves which ultimately contributed to the family’s homelessness – Seema gave £120. She feared that if she gave more, the father may spend it on “yet another marriage.”

Now granted, over £50,000 and gifts of valuable jewellery were generous, I’m not debating that. All gifts to charity and people less well off are generous, but again, one of the many clients of her many dentistry offices would pay about £120 for a filling or two.

£250 is possibly an hour of Seema’s time – I’m only guessing but it’s probably not far off – and let’s be honest, charitable donations are good for tax write offs.

Am I being churlish and wrongly judgemental? Or do you agree that the whole host of Secret Millionaires that have taken part in all the series could, actually, have done more and been a tad more generous?

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.