Slumdog Millionaires: A New AI Photoseries Reimagines Your Favourite Tycoons

Slumdog Millionaires
Slumdog MillionairesGokul Pillai

Imagination has no limits and neither does art. What’s deemed as an impossibility, in reality, is very much possible on a canvas. And with the advent and popularization of artificial technology in creating art, human creativity is finding visual representation more than ever. From the absurd to the impossible, everything is visually representable now. You just have to conceive it and AI will produce it, a bit like a magical genie that grants wishes.

This has created a whole wave of people all over the world experimenting with AI art and posting it online. But only a few are thought-provoking or creative enough to make you stop scrolling your daily news feed and delve deeper into it. One such photo series that catches the eye and makes you ponder is Slumdog Millionaires by a visual artist and photographer from Kerala, Gokul Pillai.

The art of subversion is hard to master but Pillai does it immaculately. By subverting the familiar, he is creating a shock value and consequently, re-imagining existing global structures. After all, we are all familiar with seeing photographs of global business tycoons dressed in custom-made tuxedos and socializing with the creme del a creme of society in glass houses. But voila; thanks to Pillai’s creative imagination and AI art, now, you can see what SpaceX chief, Elon Musk would look like if he was a dweller in one of Mumbai’s slums and not the son of a Zambian emerald mine owner. The series is a unique social commentary on class, wealth, and privilege of birth. What’s doubly interesting is Pillai’s choice of title for the photo series. It’s a classic inversion of the rags-to-riches story that the famous movie portrays. Also, for many Westerners, Danny Boyle’s 2008 film, is a lens or entry point into viewing India and its inherent poverty. In this way, the title also lends itself a certain global appeal. Pillia’s choice of title, with its quite apparent wordplay and not-so-veiled movie reference, is indeed a clever choice.

In a candid interview with Homegrown, we got to know more about the talented artist and his project.

Tell us more about your project Slumdog Millionaires.

This project was inspired by the hit Hollywood movie Slumdog Millionaire which I happened to re-watch recently. The movie is set in the Indian slums and I wanted to create scenes with slums as the backdrop. The initial plan was to add well-dressed politicians into the slum setup as a satirical post. As the project progressed, the name millionaire in the title made me think about placing actual rich people on the scene. The placing of rich people in a slum juxtaposed in a hilarious way and that's how I ended up with the final result.

What are some things you learned while putting this project together?

One thing I really understood is, it is the story that sells. People don't just want pretty pictures, they want a back story. Something that makes them think, makes them laugh. Thinking out of the box is always a sure way to win the heart of your audience.

Describe your creative process and the purpose with which you create.

Everything I create, be it photography/videography or digital art, starts with a storyline. I plan the stories first and shoot around that story. This is specifically the case all the time when it comes to digital art. In photography, you cannot always plan the street scenes, but it is very much doable in digital art. With the advent of Artificial Intelligence, there is now no limit to what you can create. And I am more than happy that I have the opportunity to explore the same.

Who or what have been some of your biggest inspirations over the years of your artistic career?

I am a travel photographer and it is the work of Steve McCurry that has always inspired me to this day to travel around India and see the beauty of mundane things and find stories on the street. I love the way he portrays India and the way he edits his pictures. I had recently visited a few Rabari villages on the outskirts of Rajasthan drawing on inspiration from his work. Those photographs from my recent trip are some of the best photographs I ever clicked. Another artist/photographer I admire a lot is Luke Stackpoole. His moody editing style for landscapes is out of the world.

Is there any particular project you wish you were a part of?

I do not have any specific project in my mind. But I would love to be part of a good documentary film someday.

Find out more about Gokul Pillai here.

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