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“Slumdog Millionaire” | Educating the Minority is never as simple as giving money

February 18, 2009
Jai Ho - Slumdog Millionaire
Image by alles-schlumpf via Flickr

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Slumdog Millionaire is  slated to become a huge hit, with Bollywood suddenly becoming fashionable here in the States, outside of the ethnic field that already worships at the Bollywood altar.  But, what to do about the small stars that still live in the lean-to shacks in India?  Fame is a tough thing to navigate for a child.  For a child that has parents who are broke, who need the money for food, or who just want to have some semblance of responsibility with the earnings, the pressure can be destructive.

I have seen the ads for Slumdog Millionaire, and you can watch the trailor in the clip above.  At first, it seems a heartwarming story, with it’s fair share of tragedy to make you relieved to see something good happen to characters.  But what is really compelling to me is the backstory of the casting and children’s lives.  I had thought that the children used in the film were more California child actors looking for the spotlight.  Then, I read that these were truly children living in the slums.  All of them look like Oliver Twist leads, and all of them have the saddest stories to tell.

What is most fascinating is how these film-makers compensated the children, not giving money for fear of exploitation, paying for an education of their choosing and then wondering why the parents aren’t as dedicated to sending the children, and being continually inundated by needs from people who have nothing.  You can read about one excerpt from these conversations on Yahoo’s site, in which the leading child actor has a fight with his mother about his money.  And really, is it his money?

The mother won’t let her son spend all of his money buying things for his neighbors, and he runs away screaming.   She does, however, threaten to hit him with a brick, so the lines of this drama don’t unfold the way one might expect.  I think a more interesting movie might include what happens with someone with great intentions decides to “help” someone living in destitute poverty.  We are not all masters of our own destiny all the time, no matter what mystical deities tell you to just “train your thinking,” hence the phrase “shit happens.”

But, what happens when people have enough money to really impact someone else’s life?  Numerous movies have been made about it, the one most notable in my mind, Indecent Proposal.  But, movies are rife with this kind of corruptive influence of money.  Slumdog Millionaire is a bit different in that its child actors are living out their own movie, but this time there are no cameras still rolling…

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