Monday, February 23, 2009

Being a "Slumdog" Kid

CNN reports that the young stars of "Slumdog Millionaire" will soon return to the slums of India. I am utterly annoyed that these incredibly talented and beautiful kids will return to such abject poverty. Did they not have agents? What kind of contracts were signed? Were they completely taken advantage of?

Why weren't these beautiful talented kids payed well enough to elevate themselves and their immediate families after portraying such fantastic roles in this mega hit? Why dress these kids up in Hollywood's finest to walk on the Red Carpet only to return to such degradation? Yes, such experiences will be memorable. But a life elevated above such abject poverty is far better.

While I loved "Slumddog Millionaire," my love will soon turn to palpable hate if these kids were taken advantage of. I'm more than annoyed. I'm utterly outraged at the thought!


Brosreview said...

In India, only the known male and female actors have agents. I don't think any child artist have any agents. They are guided by the green note. Thicker the bunch, the more quickly they agree to do almost anything on-screen.

Besides, the slum kids and/or everyone love to see themselves on the big screen even for a small amount of time and/or money. So, I reckon these kids were exploited. Before I go further, are these reports trustworthy? You know the press, don't you? No offence, but there might have been a misunderstanding.

Also, if these kids are paid off, there is no guarantee that they'll use the money in the right fashion. I recall that when the government allotted houses for the slumdogs (if I may), they sold the houses or gave it for rent and continued to stay in their own broken and frankly, sick homes.

If you have watched the documentary "Born in brothels", you will notice that it has a very sad ending with most of the kids leaving school to return back to the brothel.

Easy money is what everyone is seeking. Studies, job, money is quite a long-term though wise process. But, they simply don't get it.

Being an Indian by race, I am aware of the advantages they have over the other "superior class of people" (I value all the same). But, I feel it is quite worthless as they do not make proper use of it. Their tuition fees are very low and they have major quota advantage while applying for a job or to an educational institute.

Regardless, I believe the kids need to be paid in such a way that neither they nor their family get to touch the money. Some agent or missionary should take care of the kids via good education, job and better lifestyle cause I am very sure that they will squander the money in no time.

Now, I know you don't mind me writing a long comment, heh. Still, I will stop here.

judith ellis said...

Thank you, Brosreview, for your thoughtful comment—much appreciated. While I am not an Indian, it does not take much to see or smell exploitation. The very whiff is universal. Personal responsibility is very big for me. If there are big profits being made off of these kids somebody should be held personally responsible for this.

The money should be perhaps put in trust for these kids and perhaps the very contract should include boarding school for them. I DO NOT care how many times efforts have been made to rectify this horrible situation; continued efforts must remain for there to be systemic change. I say keep it up until something changes! The aim for necessary change is NEVER “worthless.”

Regarding the media, I am most certainly not gullible to believe everything that I hear or see. But I assume that if CNN is doing a report with the parents of these kids in their neighborhoods, their reporting would be fact-based. If not, an immediate retraction should be made. But your very words here point to the relevance of the CNN story.

I do not know one kid here or anywhere in all of my travels worldwide that would not like to see themselves on TV, especially kids without hope. It’s reminiscent on some level of kids in the ghetto of the US envisioning themselves as LeBron James.

As I see it, it is a problem for everybody (individuals, government, and corporations) and a great embarrassment and disgrace for respective countries too, no matter who they are. My particular perspective was from that of Hollywood or Bollywood whose actions exploit kids.

Something has to be done continuously to correct this problem. Behaviors are not born in vacuums; neither is the continuous breeding of such behaviors. By the way, who are the untouchables and where do they live? Are they among these? I have followed Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charities in India every since I was a teenager.

Brosreview said...

AN UPDATE - I recall (correct me if I am wrong) that Danny, the film maker did mention in one of his interviews that he has decided to sponsor their (child artists) education and deposit a fat FD too. I think that should help.

Yes, I realise money is not everything. But, considering the situation to be in India, I sadly have to say so.

The number of scam charity organisations are a lot in India. I have read incidents where a lot of money was collected for the Tsunami affected areas only to be filling bank accounts. It did no help to the victims whatsoever.

Yes, I respect and support your will to keep working on it until an action is undertaken. But, to be honest, I am loosing that hope in India.

I feel you are quite offended or sad by my earlier comment. But, believe me, that is the harsh truth. And, you have no idea how did I feel when they showed the disgraceful areas of my country as an entertaining film to the world. Yes, it is the truth. And, that is why it won an Oscar. To add to it, it was made by non-Indian film maker.

You see, similar stories have come up long time back in Indian cinema where the truth was showcased by great veteran Indian film makers. Why didn't they receive all this recognition?

I am still thinking about this and haven't come to a conclusion. It is so unfair. So, now, we need an outsider to tell or comment to the world about our country.

Brosreview said...

I did not want to use the word "untouchables". But, and would appreciate if you don't use it too. Yes, I believe a few actors were from a class that the world classifies as a "lower class".

judith ellis said...

Brosreview - Thank you for your words. I was not offended by your comment. As I said in the post, I am utterly annoyed and angered by the perceived notion of exploitation by Hollywood—perhaps Bollywood too? Your comment has not changed this, while I do appreciate your words. The seemingly large scale problems in India are also the problems in many places in the world, including Africa. But there remains hope. There is always hope.

With regards to the word that you would prefer that I not use, is it a remnant of the British Empire? Is it one that Indian began to distinguish its own people for power? Would it be tantamount to the term "nigger" in America with all of its derogatory implications? Such tend most certainly not be of the lighter hue. In fact, the caste base system though based on economics seems also highly based on skin color.

From what you have written here, the director's motives appear to be good. For the kids' sake, I hope they are indeed. But his actions should not be an issue of charity; these kids worked hard long hours and should be fairly compensated. Without them, there would not have been a plot. Brilliant natural actors, they are! Speaking of charity, I'm certain that there are many opportunistic people looking to take advantage of kids everywhere in the world. But it is well documented that the Missionaries of Charities have honored India and its people by their presence over these many decades.

While I wondered about the exploitation of the kids in the film, the film itself did not seem to my understanding to be done in a dishonorable way. The themes of love, integrity, poverty, greed, betrayal, hope and hopelessness are universal. I believe this to be the reason for the film's success. Some films were made about African Americans that did not show the best side of our culture or community, but it was true and well produced and acted nonetheless. "Slumdog Millionaire" was, for me, very touching. I also loved "The Namesake." I have written a few posts here based on this movie. led.

judith ellis said...

Please allow me to also say that I hear your sentiments and empathize with them.

Brosreview said...

I would have responded earlier. But, I was quite furious and sad by some of the responses I heard and read about. So, bear with me Judith.

I sympathise while watching films that speak about the harsh truth of discrimination. And, I know quite a few people who did the same when they watched the movie that triggers this post.

But, I cannot tolerate people responding such as "Haha, so that is India, eh?" Mind you, many did so. Everyone sympathizes on the black and white issue. Why not do the same while it is related to India? This is not a competition of who suffered the most and so on. I am sorry, but people are watching the film as an entertaining one than a thought-provoking one.

That's one reason I feel that this film should have been categorised as a documentary/film than just a film. I know this is arguable as it is still a fictional story. But, just to help people understand the scenario better, they could sell it like a documentary. Then, it would get the serious approach it deserves. That would open the eyes to many and urge the established ones to do something to develop the slums in India.

Hell, I even heard quotes such as this - INDIA; I - India, N - Never, D - Develops, I - In, A - Anything. How am I supposed to react to this? Thanks to the movie, HUH.

I am not blaming the Britishers for the discrimination done as we are responsible for our own actions. There are many religious justifications for the same too. But, now, that we are far past that, I dislike anyone who use such words to categorise people. To be honest, even the n-word bothers me a lot.

I am still with you on having the kids paid for their talent and not on charity. So, you probably got me wrong with me attempting to change your opinion. I support it.

It might be possible in Hollywood. And, I have a gut feeling that the junior stars in the films will be paid well. And, like you, I hope it isn't out of charity.

I mean, come on, if Anil Kapoor whose role could easily be categorised as a guest appearance can get 1% (sources tell me) of the profit for doing very little, these kids are the reason why the film has reached the Oscars and won it too. They deserve much more.

Overall, I hated the way a few actors portrayed themselves on stage. Anil did not push Dev Patel to the foreground as he wanted to be in the limelight. I did not expect such immaturity from him.

I realise I must change my attitude towards the film. But, I guess it is the response I encountered that has made me furious. "The Namesake" was emotional and made people understand things. Even "Born into Brothels" was quite thought-provoking. This film, though very close to reality disgusted me due to the inhuman response.

Sorry, I might have gone off-topic here and there. But, I am furious now. I love my country, no matter what. Yes, I am not born there. Yes, I have not lived there. But, I know my roots. I respect it. I love it. I shall defend it. And, I will not tolerate anyone who misuses its faults to make money.

judith ellis said...

I appreciate your words here, Brosreview, and wish the very best for India and its people.

While I hear you, we will never be able to control all images about any people or group or the words used to describe them.

India has a beautiful rich history and culture.

Keep the faith!

judith ellis said...

Brosreview - It looks like the "Slumdog" kids will all get new homes. This is a start, along with the education initiatives of which you spoke and hopefully healthy trust funds.