by Conor Clarke
The Washington Post answers that question, in a long piece about two of the child stars from the Oscar-trouncing Slumdog Millionaire. The two stars were, prior to filming, residents of actual Indian slums. And now:
Never again would Azhar Mohammed Ismaill, 11, sleep in the overcrowded warren of shanties and festering lean-tos known as Garib Nagar, literally "city of the poor." Azhar, one of the child stars of the Oscar-winning film "Slumdog Millionaire" recently moved with his family to a new home in Mumbai: a modest two-room apartment on the ground floor of a high-rise called Harmony. [...] The apartment was a gift from "Slumdog" director Danny Boyle, whose film grossed $300 million.
[...] Unlike Azhar, [co-star Rubina Ali] has not seen her fortunes improve much since the movie in which she plays the young ragpicker Latika. She filmed a soda commercial with Nicole Kidman and collaborated with an Indian journalist to write her autobiography this year. [...] But her family's shack was demolished by city municipal workers and later rebuilt in the same spot, next to an open sewer and piles of garbage. She remains in the slums because her father, despite Boyle's offers for a new home, isn't sure he wants to leave. He also was caught in an undercover sting by a British newspaper where he allegedly agreed to sell her for adoption to a wealthy Dubai family for the equivalent of $290,000; he denies the allegation.
The somewhat obvious and grouchy point to make here is that Indian development is not properly viewed through the lens of two child stars who get offered new homes by a famous British director. (The somewhat grouchy response to that is to observe that we don't live in a world where the gift money could somehow be redistributed seamlessly and efficiently to the millions of other children living in Indian slums. That, and the "moral awareness" value of Boyle's film is hard to quantify.) But, setting that stuff aside for a moment, I think this is touching story, and the product of good journalism.
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