UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

January 27, 2009

INDIAN SLUM MOVIE STIRS ANGER

Times, UK - Armed police guarded cinemas in India today after slum dwellers ransacked a picture house showing Slumdog Millionaire because they didn't like the use of the word "dog" in the title.

Several hundred people rampaged through the cinema in Patna, capital of the eastern state of Bihar, on Monday and tore down posters advertising the film. They said the title was humiliating and vowed to continue their protests until it was changed.

The protest was organized by Tateshwar Vishwakarma, a social activist who filed a lawsuit over the title last week against four Indians involved in its production - a lead actor, the music director and two others.

"Referring to people living in slums as dogs is a violation of human rights," said Mr Vishwakarma, who works for a group promoting the rights of slum dwellers. We will burn Danny Boyle [the film's British director] effigies in 56 slums here." . . .

Social, political and religious activists in India often organise violent protests over films to try to win publicity for their cause.

On Thursday, about 40 Mumbai slum dwellers, organised by another social activist, held up banners reading "Poverty for Sale" and "I am not a dog" outside the home of Anil Kapoor, one of the film's stars. . .

Mr Kapoor, who grew up in a Mumbai slum, has denied that "slumdog" is offensive, saying that children from the slums are called many worse things in India. Simon Beaufoy, the screenwriter, said last week: "I just made up the word. I liked the idea. I didn't mean to offend anyone."

Guardian, UK - The child stars of this year's most feted film, Slumdog Millionaire, have spent the past month seeing how the other half lives on red carpets across the world. But today allegations have emerged from their parents, who claim the film's producers exploited and underpaid the eight-year-olds.

The Telegraph reports in a page three story that the lives of Rubina Ali and Azharuddin Ismail, who play Latika and Salim as children in the early scenes of the film, are more similar to the characters they depict than to promising young actors. "The film's British director, Danny Boyle, has spoken of how he set up trust funds for Rubina and Azharuddin and paid for their education. But it has emerged that the children were paid less than many Indian domestic servants," the report says, adding that the children remain in the slums - living close by each other in makeshift shacks alongside Mumbai's railway tracks.

Boyle and the film's producer, Christian Colson, have released a statement on the issue, saying they had "paid painstaking and considered attention to how Azhar and Rubina's involvement in the film could be of lasting benefit to them over and above the payment they received for their work".

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