Everyone is discussing Slumdog Millionaire — those who haven’t seen it and have heard about it from others, those who’ve seen it and don’t have an opinion about it, and those who don’t watch English language films.
People are even shamelessly establishing remote relationships with Danny Boyle and with actors from the film, as they always do with anyone who is up and coming. So, I will, as well.
Dev Patel lives half-a-mile away from where I am in north-west London. I’m supposed to feel thrilled at the prospect of having a celebrity neighbour because it has a direct correlation with the value of my apartment, according to a Gujarati estate agent.
On the tube, I bumped into a social acquaintance (read, gossip aunty) who excitedly claimed that she knew Dev’s mother.
“She had such a basic job in Sudbury Hill. Now she’s busy accompanying him for all these fancy awards in business class,” remarked the acquaintance.
“I’ve seen Dev grow up. He always wanted to be an actor. I knew he would one day,” she beamed, as if she had mentored him. “Right, and he was my class mate,” I muttered. Never mind that he’s 18 and I’m not!
While I’m happy for Dev (my neighbour) and headlines like Pitt versus Patel make me proud of the ordinary-looker from Harrow, what infuriates me is greed — of the filmmakers and of the parents of those two brilliant child actors in the film.
The fathers have accused the producers of exploiting and underpaying the eight year olds.
Rubina Ali was seemingly paid £500 for a year’s work and Azharuddin received £1,700, which is ostensibly more than what they were making before they got the acting jobs. They have even found places in a local school and receive £20 a month for books and food.
But Rubina’s father lamented that though the film was making pots of money they had made none.
Azhar’s father groaned that the money paid to his son was spent on medicines to help him (the father) fight tuberculosis.
Charming! I can’t get over the cheek of the two slum-dwelling fathers who can’t afford pennies to give their kids their basic education and are calling the thousands paltry!
When Azhar and Rubina are old enough to understand that money, which could have been used to make life better for their sick parents and vulnerable siblings, was kept from them by well-meaning filmmakers who struck gold by telling their story on the big screen, the two are bound to think that Danny Boyle and his producers exploited them.
But given that Rubina and Azhar’s annual earnings were consumed entirely by their poverty-stricken fathers for their own welfare, I’m wondering who the real exploiters are!