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Though the story broke in a barely-reliable “news” source, it took milliseconds for people to respond in shock and horror to British tab News of the World‘s claim that 9-year-old Slumdog Millionaire star Rubina Ali was being peddled for adoption by her father.
Let’s just say the odds were stacked against Ali’s father, Rafiq Qureshi: Ali’s biological mother publicly praised the paper for releasing the story, even duking it out over the matter with Qureshi’s wife (and Ali’s stepmother) in the streets. And people have been naturally suspect of the Slumdog showbiz dad after his name first emerged, amidst controversy–after the film was a raging success, he felt his daughter should have been paid more (despite the fact that filmmakers arranged the Jai Ho Trust to provide the young actors and their families with education and housing needs).
While speaking to CNN with the young Ali, Qureshi did in fact admit to meeting with a wealthy Dubai couple (who turned out to be News of the World journalists), with the rather dubious caveat that he actually never intended to accept money for his daughter, and that he was misunderstood because of his poor English.
“’I talked to them in the room,’ Ali told CNN of the meeting, conducted by undercover News of the World journalists. ‘My dad said I could meet people if I want to, ‘But I will never give my daughter away for any amount of money.’”
But here’s the rub: although the undercover reporters argue that they have seven hours of taped evidence showing Qureshi and his brother negotiating the sale, the video has no sound. And this week, Mumbai police dropped their investigation of the father, citing a lack of evidence. So perhaps Qureshi didn’t attempt this terrible thing, and maybe he did. As is often the case, the truth is difficult to discern amidst the chaos.
All we can say is that we feel deeply for poor Rubina, who really just can’t seem to catch a break. And to anyone who’s actually thinking about it, might we suggest following PETA’s advice (not something we’d often do), merely applying it to adorable, talented, potentially-up-for-grabs children:
Filed under: Adoption, Chaos, India, Jai Ho Trust, Mumbai, News of the World, PETA, Poor Kid, Rafiq Qureshi, Rubina Ali, rumors, Selling Children, Showbiz Moms and Dads, Slumdog Millionaire, Tabloids, The Truth
Dear Automobile God,
I know that I accidentally killed my iPod Nano by
drunkenly irresponsibly dropping it into a crevice of my car–where it was later crushed beyond recognition by a moving part. But I’m different now! I am ready to take care of something cute and crushable, for real this time.
If I got a Tata Nano, I would love it, clean it, cuddle with it, give it fresh fuel every day. Ooh! And I would cawess its wittle steewing wheel and tell it how adowable it is, all the time! I would bring it to meet other wittle Nanos, and they could woll awound together. I would give it a name, like “Dano,” so that it could be known as “Dano,” The Wee Nano. What a sweet, sweet, wittle baby Nano I would waise!
I realize that these darling cars are in high demand, but I hope you can find a way to bestow one upon me. I prayed to the Technology God once, and he or she gave Jen an iPhone 3G. But I promise if you answer this request, I will pray to you more than once. Maybe three times!
Thanks in advance, and I can’t wait to get my Nano.
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
Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice arrived for an emergency condolence visit in India this week, an effort to smooth over relations between India and Pakistan during the shaky after-effects of the recent Mumbai terrorist attacks.
Indian and Afghan officials have accused Pakistan of being accountable for the incursions, after the perpetrator in custody was confirmed by India’s officials as being Pakistani (and sang that his compatriots, are too).
Pakistani President Zardari has stated that Pakistan is “in no way responsible” for the aggression, instead offering that the terrorists are likely “stateless actors who have been operating all throughout the region.” This, of course, is unsatisfying to Indian officials that are still grappling for an answer to the violence.
Rice [says] Pakistan bears a “special responsibility” to help get to the bottom of the attacks while awkwardly declining to finger Pakistani militants outright.
Rice continued to offer solutions during her talks with Pakistan, whispering*, “Hey, we got this. Just work with me here, and we’ll get some intel that proves Iraq did this in no time.”
*Not true. So not true. Totally fictional. Right?
Yesterday, the coordinated terrorist attacks directed at Westerners in Mumbai, India injured and claimed the lives of hundreds.
We watched the coverage in horror.
Yet, apparently, we still couldn’t keep our minds–or at least the CNN news ticker–off of Heidi and Spencer’s fake wedding:
We apologize for the CNN ticker, and our thoughts go out to all of those who were and are affected by these attacks.
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.