How do you maximize on your bottom line and cash in on the Oscars? Well, just go to one of the poorest slums in the world, select two desperate children for large roles, pay them a pittance, and then reap the rewards once production is completed. The important lesson in all this? Cinematography and a feel good story are crucial elements for Hollywood.
Oh, and the other lesson? Imperialism hasn’t really disappeared. It’s just dressed in a different looking cloth of capitalist exploitation. Ever since 1876, when Queen Victoria declared herself “Empress of India,” Western imperialists have used India as a cultural and political playground. It’s ironic that the main theme of Slumdog Millionaire is rags-to-riches as as Jamal wins it all in India’s version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, which is based on Kaun Banega Crorepati, popularly known as KBC, an Indian reality/game show — when in real life, the rags go back to being rags. Even before its release in Indian theatres on 23 January, Slumdog Millionaire had become the biggest film about India, to be filmed in India.
So what about two young Indian actors? While the small boy Azharuddin Ismail has fallen gravely ill, the little girl Rubina still refuses to take off the dress she had worn at the Oscars. Although director Danny Boyle and the producers have promised to relocate them to an apartment complex, nothing’s been done as of yet.
Neighbours — to console the two children who are essentially under mental stress since their return — have built a 2.4m x 1.5m metal structure for him to sleep under out of the sun. What does director Danny Boyle think? Boyle says the film’s child stars don’t need a big bank balance because they have learned to speak English, proposing: “The difference it will make to their lives is unbelievable and it’s already made a phenomenal difference because they speak English. If you speak English in Mumbai your employment chances go up a hundredfold.” Nice.