Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
The Slumdog view
On a recent house-hunting trip in the suburbs of Mumbai, an enthusiastic real estate agent opened the French windows of a tenth-floor apartment and stepped aside to let us enjoy the view.
I have covered the ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ “phenomenon” since December, when it first caught everyone’s attention.
I have followed it through the Golden Globe win, the Oscars, the “poverty porn” allegations and all the controversies that have hit the film after the original blaze of glory.
No wonder then that the real estate agent’s statement rankled. “Slumdog Millionaire” was supposed to be a great movie that touched people all over the world, a film both critically acclaimed and honoured with Oscars.
The film also brought child actors Rubina Ali and Azharuddin Ismail in the spotlight and gave them a life they could barely have dreamed of earlier.
Now, the same movie is being used to sell a side of life that really shouldn’t be up for sale. There are political parties gifting houses to Rubina and Azhar, even as the trust set up by the film’s producers tries to do the same. There have also been allegations of trafficking, allegations that not enough was being done to help the children.
The kids in question, Rubina and Azhar, have also changed in the process. When I first met the two, they seemed a little overwhelmed by all the attention.
Now they seem used to the ways of the media, asking reporters for the name of their organisation and only then agreeing to interviews. Earlier, their answers were open and uninhibited, now they seem rehearsed.
When we now cover the “Slumdog Millionaire” story, it seems more to do with the aftermath of a success that no one can quite cope with.
Director Danny Boyle put it best when he said “The film that we made should be a positive thing in their eyes and not a negative thing.”
As I walked out of that 10th-floor apartment, I had a feeling the “Slumdog Millionaire” saga was turning a little sour.