The shame of ‘Slumdog’

The tragic life of Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail is the kind of story that justice-seeking Hollywood stars could embrace.

Today, Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail was left asking “where’s my chicken?” when authorities in Mumbai bulldozed his and other shanties in the city’s slum. Ismail is one of the stars of last year’s biggest hit movie, “Slumdog Millionaire.”

He starred in the film that garnered 8 Oscars and $327 million, but tonight he’ll sleep in the mud, the Associated Press reports.


Residents of Garib Nagar vowed Thursday to rebuild, though many have yet to pay off the loans they took out — at 20 percent monthly interest — to reconstruct the shanties they lost when the city tore them down last year.

Azhar’s mother sat despondently Thursday afternoon on the stack of belongings the family managed to save. Nearby, Azhar dodged piles of metal sheeting and debris as he rode through his destroyed neighborhood on a shiny new bike given to him by a fan from Britain, a fancy black-and-red helmet on his head.

“Slumdog” producers insist they’ve done their part. “They set up a trust to ensure the children get proper homes, a good education and a nest egg when they finish high school,” the AP reported. But it’s hard to claim you’ve “ensured” proper homes when the pictures (from Getty Images) suggest otherwise:

slumdog_1.jpg

slumdog_2.jpg

slumdog_3.jpg

slumdog_4.jpg

Whatever the failings of the movie’s producer, the Vancouver Sun says, is nothing compared to the failure of the government of India:


Whatever the personal failings might be of the people who produced and directed Slumdog Millionaire, those failings are nothing compared with the inadequacy of government reaction to the extreme poverty that plagues India. The filmmakers, to their credit, shone a worldwide spotlight on a terrible problem — and did it in a way that let people take it in and not turn away. It’s unlikely there is a single country in the world that could come away unscathed from an unblinking look at what happens to its most vulnerable citizens. Canada has its own sordid chapters, generally acknowledged only when we can’t really avoid it.

Generally speaking, Hollywood hasn’t had much to say about the situation.

  • Elizabeth T

    To lay any blame at the feet of some Hollywood production company is tantamount to subscribing to the [GOP] philosophy “private industry will fix the world’s woes”. It is the primary the responsibility of the gov’t of India to care for its people, not some American corporation. (which, by the way, Hollywood is, just an other collection of corporations, not some NGO charity group.)