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It was reported this week that Slumdog Millionaire star Freida Pinto, 24, had a “secret husband” or fiance, Rohan Antao, whom she met in college and dumped once the Oscar-nominated movie became a hit. Another rumor floating around is that she and her 18 year-old co-star Dev Patel are now dating.
While these two moves sound climby and actressy…
…who’s surprised, really?
There’s a new Slumdog Millionaire scandal a-brewing, with the families of two of its child stars claiming exploitasian. The parents of 8 year-olds Rubina Ali and Azharuddin Ismail, who play young Latika and Salim in the film, respectively, and are both still living in Mumbai slums, have accused the film’s producers of underpaying their children. (The families also appear to be in the direst of straits: Rubina’s father broke his leg during filming and has been out of work since, and Azharuddin’s father has TB.)
The movie’s distributor, Fox Searchlight, responded by saying that the children were paid three times the average wage of adults in their neighborhoods. Considering their neighborhoods are slums and the average annual income in India is $941, this sounds like a raw deal for the kids. Apparently, a trust fund has also been set up for the child actors that they will be able to access when they are 18, provided they stay in school. Which sounds slightly better, until you start to wonder: Isn’t it pretty fucking impossible to stay in school until you’re 18 when you’re living in a slum in India? The drop-out rate is 30% in America and higher in lower-income areas, so what must it be like in India, where ONE-THIRD of ALL the world’s poor live? This may be a noble plan in theory, but is it even tenable?
Maybe Fox Searchlight and Danny Boyle and Slumdog‘s producers have done right by those kids, relatively speaking, but would it be any skin off their noses to do, for lack of a better phrase, more right? What would it cost, a few thousand dollars? That’s nothing to a movie that’s already grossed $62 million.
Entertainment Weekly asked its readers to weigh in on this controversy, and there’s an array of thoughtful ideas on the situation, like how the movie’s overrated, or how the media’s making all of this up, or how these child actors–hell, all of India–is to blame for…um…outsourcing:
[UPDATE: Some backpedaling.]
Yesterday, several dozen Mumbai slum residents protested outside of the home of actor Anil Kapoor–who plays the game show host in Slumdog Millionaire with the most delightfully grandiose elocution–because they object to the film’s name.
“I am poor, but don’t call me slumdog,” said Rekha Dhamji, 18. “I don’t want to be referred to as a dog,” she said.
Okay. Fair enough. And while y’all are at it, would you mind protesting the name of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which would have been more aptly titled, The Curious Case of a Big Budget Hollywood Movie Without a Story, or The Curious Case of a Pointless Waste of Two-and-a-Half Hours of My Life that I Can’t Get Back, or The Curious Case of Horrible CG Effects that Made the Child-Version of Button Look Like an Old, Wrinkly Dick? As well as the fact that it received more Oscar noms than “Don’t Call Me” Slumdog Millionaire?
That would be swell! Thanks.
Filed under: Anil Kapoor, Danny Boyle, Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Mumbai, Oscar Nominations, Protests, Slumdog Millionaire, Slumdog Protests, The Academy Awards, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Oscars
Name: Freida Pinto
Hails from: Mumbai
Why She’s a Babe: The Mumbai-born former model is definitely one of those girls whose beauty flummoxes you. It makes you gasp and stammer and shriek to the gods, “Why does she get to be so pretty?!” It makes you red-faced and flushed and a little wobbly on your feet, as though you’ve been drinking. Freida debuts as an actor in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, in the role of Latika, love interest to Jamal Malik, a Mumbai slum kid who winds up on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. There’s already major Oscar buzz surrounding the film, which opens in select cities tomorrow, but even if the movie sucked (which it won’t), we’d be content getting wasted on Freida’s lovely visage for two hours anyway.