This appeared in Bombay Times today. Meanwhile, Aham is getting a fantastic response . So am I. Two German journos who were here for an interview last afternoon are keen to cover Aham's Gateway of India peaceful protest on sunday after I spoke to them at length as to what our objectives were.
I'm doing an interview for Karan Thapar ( yes, again!), tomorrow afternoon, along with Girija Vyas, who heads the National Commission for Women, on an even more terrifying subject - according to a recent study conducted by the British medical journal The Lancet, 10 women in India are burnt every hour on average, most of these deaths are tied to domestic abuse.
Wake up, women. You too, men.
On a lighter, brighter note, I watched Pink Panther -2 last night and fell off my chair laughing. Our Ash has a decent enough role in the movie and has done a decent enough job, given that it is a crazy, illogical, silly spoof. I only wish they'd hired a better make up artist for her ( who's the villain?), a better lighting director ( no amount of concealor can take care of those dark rings under the eyes, but great lighting helps reduce them on camera)), and of course, a better stylist ( frumpy, unflattering suits? For Ash??? What were they thinking?). Anyway, from all her recent interviews it does appear that Bahurani has thrown in the towel as far as Hollywood is concerned. Ab Freida ka waqt aa gayaa hai, doston. Mind it.
Slumkids from Kadka-nagar
They still live in Garib Nagar. That pretty much says it all. Garib Nagar is such a cruel, direct and obvious name for a shanty town. A wretched slum. The one that has produced those incredibly talented kids the world is going gaga over. Yes, I know Boyle and the producer of the multi –million- dollar –and- still- raking- it- in global hit, are sincere about plans to educate these kids and provide for them. May Boyle’s efforts yield better results than Mira Nayar’s a few years ago. Her actors were also promised many wonderful things following the success of ‘Salaam Bombay’. But just last week, the main guy, who is now 32, gave a scathing interview to a tabloid in which he claimed he was thrown right back into the gutter from which he’d been fished out by Mira to star in her film. He’s a lowly auto rick driver now, and pretty bitter about the experience.Whatever happened to the trust that had been set up amidst much fanfare at the time? I remember the premiere at Eros cinema clearly, when these street kids had arrived at the venue in brightly decorated ghoda gaadis, wearing Salaam Bombay t-shirts, and been greeted by cheering fans as they danced to the soundtrack with gay abandon. During the intermission, Mira had got them up on stage with her and danced along as cameras rolled. Everybody agreed it was a fantastic moment and how happy those kids looked. Then what happened ? Sab log unhe bhool gayey. Well… Mira went back. She went on to other films, other concerns. Everybody else lost interest. And that was that.
How different is it likely to be this time? Let’s wait and watch. There are other questions to consider – for example, one argument goes that Boyle’s producers have paid the kids whatever amount was agreed upon. According to them that amount is very generous and much more than the kids would earn otherwise. They’ve been quoted as saying it is three times the money an adult from that background would make in a year. I’m sure they are right. That takes care of the legalese. But now comes the trickier question of dealing with a moral obligation. Should Boyle be stuck with these bachchas for the rest of his life? After all, they have been paid for their work. Right now, with emotions running high, Boyle has gone out of his way to ensure the kids get a fair deal. His plan on paper looks very sound and well thought through. Setting up a trust with clauses that safeguard the kids’ interests and pays for their education is noble of Danny indeed. Is that enough? Will it work? Why be cynical. Perhaps it will, if the kids want it to, and if their minders don’t turn greedy\exploitative and plain cussed. We saw how Rubaina’s biological mother nearly clawed her way to grab the daughter she had turned her back on. We watched in horror as the family fought over this tiny child, suffering from jet lag and a major culture shock. We saw Azharuddin cowering in a corner of his hut after being slapped by his father for not obliging presswallas. Was anybody really thinking of the bachchas? These are highly vulnerable tots who have been through an extraordinary , life- transforming experience. But the fairy tale is now over. What’s next?
I find it somewhat grotesque that the state government has promptly jumped on to the band wagon and offered flats to two of the kids. What for? “ For bringing glory to India,” said a minister. Such irony! What of the other kids? What of millions of homeless kids like them which Mumbai is full of? A case of misplaced charity. These two are super privileged kids in comparison to countless others. In fact their transformed lives can lead to a Slumdog -2 script. Child psychologists may have an interesting perspective on what this incredible experience has done to the psyche of these young actors. It goes beyond a fantasy. From the sewers of Mumbai to the swishiest boulevards of Hollywood , and on to the most glam awards ceremony in the world! Wow! Imagine the dizzying pace of LA - being greeted, feted and hugged by some of the most famous people on earth, visiting Disneyland and dancing on stage for a global audience, this has surely been one hell of a trip. Uske baad? Back to the squalor they’ve been born into? How disorienting and depressing is that? Can they ever reconnect to that sordid life without something snapping inside their heads? Never! These children have changed, perhaps forever. What they need is counseling. Once reality kicks in, they are going to ask questions and demand answers. That could lead to frustration, depression … even something far more drastic like a major mental breakdown. Boyle won’t be around to handle such a crisis.So, before we go any further with our OTT conduct, it’s time to evaluate a few things soberly. We are dealing with tender lives, not commodities. Boyle has done his bit. It’s time for us to do ours.