Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Real Dogs of Slumdog Millionaire


If you've been following the news, you know that India isn't too happy with the film Slumdog Millionaire. Rick at Coosa Creek Cinema has recently written a piece about this.

In the comments section there, it was revealed that the two boys that play Jamal and Salim as children are actually from the slums of Mumbai and have not benefited from the success of the film. In fact, they've barely benefited at all. One of the boys was paid a little over $1,000 for his work and the other was paid $3,600. You can read the full story here. In addition, you can see reaction from Boyle and company here.

According to the Screen Actors Guild site, the basic rate for an actor is around $2,600. Of course this can fluctuate depending on negotiations, but let's just assume that's the case. And based on the fact that the boys are in about half the film, one could assume that shooting with them involved several weeks. Needless to say, the boys were not properly compensated for their work. Word is that there were several agreements in place between the boys and the production company, including money to stay in school and a trust fund set up for them.

Here's an idea. How about you pay them what they deserve? If it is decided that they receive additional monies for school or their future, that's a separate issue. But at least pay them a basic salary as it has been set for so many others. It is unconscionable to me that this sort of thing could happen. This is the ugliest underbelly that Hollywood could expose.

Actually, when you think about it, it would make for a perfect movie. Show a scene of Boyle and company accepting the Golden Globe on stage, all mugging for the cameras. Juxtapose that with scenes of Rubina and Azharuddin running through squalor in the slums of Mumbai. Cut again to Boyle and company drinking champagne and hitting all the after parties, all mugging for the cameras. Juxtapose that with Azharuddin and his family living under a plastic sheet since their house was recently torn down because it was deemed illegal.

Oh, the irony.

One can only hope that this bad press causes 20th Century Fox to do right by these boys. And then may they rot in hell for their sins.

19 comments:

Rick Olson said...

Great post, Piper! I think it about says it all.

Check out the comment section of yesterday's post for some quotes from Fox a PR flack sent me.

My post is going up this evening about it, when I have some breathing room.

Anonymous said...

I think I am just going to rent "No Country For Old Men" again and call it a day.

Megan said...

I like your ending especially.

PIPER said...

Thanks Rick,

I of course wouldn't have been able to put it together without the help of your blog. So thank you.

I'm really upset about this. It's not right. I'm curiouse to read what you have written about this.

Question: Did the Fox PR person send you that stuff because you requested it or because they came across your piece?

Anon,

I'm in agreement.

Megan,

Thanks.

Ray said...

Yeesh .... this seems a bit anti-Piperish. Are you actually on a soapbox tonight??? LOL

I totally agree, of course. It's horrible that the studio and Boyle exploited these kids and their situation, and then abandoned them to their destitute life without helping them whatsoever.

Ahhh ... Hollywood ... the dream factory.

PIPER said...

Ray,

Yes, the icy heart has melted a bit. Boy for a guy who doesn't really like the film, I sure have dedicated a lot of space to it.

But anyway. It just floors me that they would use the slums to build a story about a boy who gets out of the slums only to leave two real people in the slums. I'm not sure that makes any sense, but oh well.

The movie's budget was $15 million. It's hardly a low-budget independent and I doubt it costs that much money to help get a couple of kids out of the slums and into better living. Now that would be a feel good story.

MovieMan0283 said...

Perhaps the feel-good politics that got Slumdog nominated will now backfire and get it blacklisted by Academy voters. That would certainly be ironic, wouldn't it? Not that it really matters...only important thing is that the studio does right by the kids, which will only happen if the story continues to take off (and really, how can it not? This is a pretty big deal...)

Megan said...

Yeah, didn't the ballots go out this week? It might be an interesting acceptance speech if it wins...

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Paul Arrand Rodgers said...

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/movies/la-et-slumdog30-2009jan30,0,2262893.story

I hate to sound like a corporate drone, but the above article is pretty good, and fairly objective.

The kids who were in Slumdog, controversy or not, have opportunities that are afforded to very few kids in the same situation.

Was their salary fair? I don't know. I'd probably look at Bollywood base payment for actors before I looked at Hollywood rates. Then I'd consider the $15,000 sitting in a trust fund for future education.

This is Oscar season, and while the accusations this time around are of a more serious nature than those hurled against The Hurricane or A Beautiful Mind, it has to be taken into consideration.

Boyle seems genuinely concerned for the kids who were in this movie. This is a story to follow, no doubt. I hope it's not true. If it is, then I suppose there's some explaining to do.

RC said...

Would people say these boys were exploited if the film never got picked up for circulation or only made it around the festival circuits?

I think that with the financial success of the movie that Fox should certainly pony up and give the boys what they deserve...but I think the wages that were paid initially go to show just what a suprise hit this was for the producers who if that thought they were making a multi-million dollar success story they would have paid the boys more.

just my thought (& hope)

PIPER said...

Paul,

Here's the thing. Slumdog's budget was $15 Million. The average budget of a Bollywood picture is $500,000. It's obvious that they weren't dealing with India dollars here so there's really no reason to compare it with what Indian actors usually get paid, unless it's a spin job.

And to me, paying for them to go to school while they still live in a hut or under a plastic sheet is preposterous to me. One of the boy's father has TB and all of his living expenses are going to take care of his TB instead of his education. To me it's like having a Porshe parked in front of HUD Housing. The priorities seem out of whack.

I think Boyle's decision for authenticity is fine, but he needs to do right by the boys.

And the trust fund that is rewarded to them when they turn 18 is suspect as well. I would be interested in knowing under these living conditions what the average life span is. The question is, will they even make 18 years of age?

PIPER said...

RC,

If the picture never got big, it's true that this would not be a story. But that doesn't somehow justify it.

Like I said to Paul, this is not an "independent" movie. And it's not an Indian movie either - at least not in the dollars and cents of it.

So while it's not a gigantic budget, it's certainly one that they were planning or hoping to get a return from.

I personally could not use someone in a movie that was from squalor to be in a movie about squalor and then walk away from that someone and send them back to squalor. I'm not saying put them up in a penthouse, but get them the hell out of there. You've just made a movie showing how awful those areas are, and yet you're perfectly fine allowing someone that you know to live in that area? In making the decision to be authentic, Boyle should have weighed the risks and put in a better plan for these boys.

Chuck Williamson said...

What bothers me most about some people's response to this story is that a large section of the Slumdog fanbase has openly sided with the producers rather than the Mumbai families. It's ironic that many who were suckered in by the film's heavy-handed and poorly delivered condemnation of exploitation, prejudice, and poverty are now balking at the real-life impoverished of Mumbai when the real thing turns up outside of the glossy, gossamer package of this film. Maybe "ironic" is the wrong word. Try nauseating. Boyle and 20th Century Fox should be ashamed of themselves, and should be going the extra mile to rectify the situation. Like you said--this story shows us the ugliest parts of Hollywood. That so many--insides and outsiders alike--wish to silence and discredit the claims of these genuine, honest-to-goodness Mumbai slumdogs highlights the superficiality of this film's message and the hypocrisy of a few, select individuals.

I hope this throws a monkey wrench into this movie's Oscar chances, and Milk winds up winning in an upset. Hell, I think I'd rather see The Reader take the Oscar over Slumdog. And that assessment is based solely on the quality of the films.

PIPER said...

Chuck,

Well said. You summed it all up perfectly.

Like Megan said, it will be interesting if this wins to see what the reaction is.

It may be nothing. The guy over at Entertainment Weekly's blog calls it a "minor controversy."

Paul Arrand Rodgers said...

The people behind EW are freaking retarded though.

This is going to be spun both ways. Rival studios want this to sink Slumdog. Those rooting for it will call it "minor."

Stacia said...

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The rules: “1) Accept the award by posting it on your blog along with the name of the person that has granted the award and a link to his/her blog. 2) Pass the award to another five blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgement, remembering to contact each of them to let them know they have been selected for this award.” You're welcome to take the stamp/badge from my blog here:

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or you can find one by searching online as well. And of course rules aren't necessarily RULES, this is the Internet after all! Thanks!

Oh, and the guy over at EW can blow me. "Minor", my butt.

Moviezzz said...

"Here's the thing. Slumdog's budget was $15 Million. The average budget of a Bollywood picture is $500,000."

Seriously??? Makes you wonder where the money went as the average Bollywood film is 30 times better looking than SLUMDOG. And they have a lot more going on, as far as characters and costumes, music and choreography.

It is like how Steven Soderbergh made BUBBLE with non-professional actors, with video cameras, and somehow the budget turned out to be $1 million. A film student could have made the same film for $1,000.

Where does the money go?

PIPER said...

Stacia,

Awesome. Thanks so much. I will post my picks soon.

Moviezzz,

I think the money goes to the Craft Services Table. Elaborate little finger sandwiches. And dark chocolate M&Ms. That stuff isn't free.