Life After the Oscars: from Millionaire to Mumbai

Home Opinion Life After the Oscars: from Millionaire to Mumbai


From Slumdog Millionaire to just plain slumdog. By now most have either seen or at least heard about the movie that won Best Picture of the Year, as-well as seven other Oscar awards. However, I would venture to guess that while the majority of the world watched the Oscars, oohing and ahhing over the adorable Indian children who played major roles in Slumdog, not so many people kept up with their lives after leaving the red carpet behind.

Not much has changed here since the Oscars. Perhaps there is a little more buzz about the actual movie, with viewers streaming in and out of theaters as always. Nothing unusual there.

“Let’s see if this movie really deserved all those Oscars,” I heard a woman comment as she entered the cinema where I was seeing Slumdog for the second time. And that is just how we are here in America. Maybe it deserved them, maybe it didn’t. But for some reason her statement bothered me, angered me even.

Rubina Ali, the nine-year star who plays the youngest Latika, and Azharuddin Ismail, the ten- year Salim, were both given free travel to the states to take part in the Oscars. While in the United States they were taken to Disney Land and stayed in Five Star hotels.

I’ve never done either of those things, let alone walked among the celebrities at the Oscars. So, I thought at first, it must be nice to be friends with acclaimed movie producer Danny Boyle, and be in such an awarding film.

However, after doing some research of my own, I changed my mind. After the Oscars, both children were returned to their families, whose very homes are located deep within the slums of Mumbai, India. They were paid about seven-hundred dollars and were given an education fund set up in their names.

Young Azharuddin became sick from exhaustion and failure to readjust to his slum life, with a temperature of 103 degrees. There are reports saying that, although his family has been evicted from their slum home, neighbors have rallied around to build a structure to keep the sick child out of the sun. He is yet to recover.

Little Rubina is still wearing the light blue ball gown that she wore to the Oscars. Numerous news stations covering the stories of the children have quoted her saying that she doesn’t want to sleep on the floor anymore, or live somewhere with trash all around.

So, after saying all of that, I really am not writing this article to prove that Slumdog Millionaire is a brilliant movie or that we should all send money to help children in India. I am not trying to make you feel guilty about living the ‘high life’ here in America. I just want to talk about the system.

As you can imagine, once the public (at least the few of them that followed up on the story) learned about the condition that these children were living in after taking part in a film that grossed over 100 million dollars, there was some widespread outrage.

People were upset and disgusted that the children had only been paid seven-hundred dollars. They were dumbfounded that the kids were sent back to sleep in the slums.

I was too, but then I started to think about the system, and how we live in America where money is a commodity, and what two kids from the slums of India would be able to do with over seven-hundred dollars. That is more than a working adult in India makes in three years wages. Would money do them any good? What could they buy? Where could they store it? There is already a fear that these ‘child stars’ don’t have the proper protection to keep them secure in their homes.

As of now, there are rumors floating around that director Danny Boyle has hired an Indian agent to help the families, and that he is moving them, free of cost, out of their ghettos.

So, what do I really think about this? I’m not sure yet. I loved the movie, and as I followed the story of these two children over the past three weeks, I wanted them to get whatever help they could. But I also want all of the other children, the ones who weren’t lucky enough to be cast into a multi-million dollar film, to be moved out of their slums as well.

I want poverty to be non-existent. I want every country to have clean water. I don’t want to hear stories or see pictures of children sleeping in trash or playing in open sewage. I want everyone to eat three meals a day like I do, and go to school, and learn to read and write. I want children to be children and not have to work for food. I want every family to have a roof over their heads while they sleep. I want a lot of things. But is there truly a way to change the system? Is there a real way to end poverty?

Maybe it is by simply sacrificing more. I guess we’ll never know unless we try.

I’ve heard by many that poverty is a necessary evil. It is not.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” – Isaiah 58: 9,10