02/23/2009, 00.00
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Oscar night belongs to Slumdog Millionaire, a look into a violent India

by Nirmala Carvalho
The documentary Smile Pinki gets best award telling the story of a child who is ostracised for a cleft lip. Indian minorities hope that these successes will put the spotlight on the violence endured by Muslims, Christians and the marginalised.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – India is celebrating Slumdog Millionaire’s sweeping success at the Academy Award ceremony last night. In addition to the movie by director Danny Boyle, which took home eight Oscars, Smile Pinki won for Best Documentary Short Subject, telling the story of a six-year-old girl from the village of Dabai in Uttar Pradesh who becomes a social outcast because of a cleft lip.

Despite this achievement few Indians received any award from the victories of British director Boyle and US documentary maker Megan Mylan; they were composer A.R. Rahman, singer Sampooran Singh Gulzar and sound designer Resul Pookutty.

Slumdog Millionaire producers have also been dogged by controversy. They have been accused of underpaying the two child actors who worked in the film, Rubina Ali and Mohammed Azharuddin Ismail, who after the completion of the movie went back to live in their slums.

Still for ordinary people success in Los Angeles has been cause for celebration in the streets. Even schools stayed close.

What the movie celebrates is not India’s cinema which produces hundreds of movies each year, drawing an average 23 million spectators per day, but the country and its stories, placed under the limelight of Hollywood for once.

The stories of Mumbai’s slum kids, that of Muslim boy Jamal and Pinki from Dabai, are but two of the many faces of today’s India, faces almost always ignored until Slumdog Millionaire’s triumph put the spotlight on them.

As a celebratory mood grabs the country many people are hoping that the movie’s success will bring greater attention to the problems and events it describes. For Boyle’s film especially highlights Hindu anti-Muslim violence, rekindling the memory of the 1993 anti-Muslim attacks in Mumbai by Hindu nationalists.

Ram Puniyani, a member of the Committee for Communal Amity (EKTA), told AsiaNews that the “film captures that reality very well. The popular notion that riots are caused by Hindu-Muslim or Hind-Christian differences is misplaced. In the last two decades incidents of violence have been triggered by some offshoot of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (a Hindu nationalist organisation), looking for a pretext to begin the carnage. In Gujarat it was the event of Godhra train catching fire (in February 2002) and in Kandhamal it was the murder of Swami Laxamanand by Maoists (on 23 August 2008).”

Puniyan, who wrote ‘Fascism of Sangh Parivar’, hopes that Slumdog Millionaire’s success will “encourage international agencies to pay more attention to this problem and shed light on the violence” as well as “put pressure on India to protect its minorities.”

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