Since it is entirely possible that you’ve been living under a rock for the past six or seven months, here’s a recap – Obama won (yep, the black guy), everyone hates rich people, and the Oscar’s were swept by a little movie called Slumdog Millionaire.
Ok, so now that we’re all caught up, let’s talk about this movie. Slumdog Millionaire is the story of a scrappy kid growing up in (no spoiler here) the slums. These slums happen to be in India, making Slumdog arguably the most successful movie - in American markets - with India starring front and center. The implausible love story and game show tension are not really the main attractions. (Really, did anyone not see the Three Musketeers question coming?)
What made the movie unique was the frank depiction of Indian poverty and the stark contrast between the country’s wealthy and poor. For Americans watching from the safety of a multiplex, the plight of the impoverished in India is astounding and probably helped propel the movie to Oscar and box-office glory.
The film has been criticized by some for glossing up the slums a bit too much. (As one Indian friend put it “go to those slums. You’re not going to find Freida Pinto.”) And, yes, there have been more realistic films made illustrating these this poverty. But the fact of the matter is that this is the first Indian-centric film to achieve significant critical and audience success in America, and it shows a small, if less than realistic, shot of the hardships endured by too many every day.
20% of all children who die before age 5 do so in India. And in the five minutes you’ve spent reading this, an Indian woman has died, as one dies every 5 minutes. There is a severe need for improved healthcare and last week, the New York Young Professionals Chapter of the American India Foundation (AIF) hosted their second annual benefit dinner to raise money in an attempt to make an impact on this appalling situation. Raising money for the Apna Clinic, a public health initiative, the Young Professionals will help fund a center to serve 50,000 – 60,000 migrant workers and their families in Mustafabad. The clinic will provide basic screenings and education as well as reproductive and women’s care.
Saturday night is not generally when most people want to hang out and discuss issues of poverty, but the 200+ people who showed up to Vermillion on Manhattan’s east side were happy to use their weekend to try and help. And the many volunteers who spent weeks planning the event were thrilled that such an enthusiastic crowd gathered for this cause. An undeniable success, the event raised over $14,000 for the Apna Clinic. Not quite 20 million rupees, but an impressive effort nonetheless! [Ed note: suddenly thinking we should get one of these volunteers on a game show...]
Whether people are drawn to Indian causes because of a popular film, family connections, or other interests, there is a real and growing need for change in the country. If a mildly cheesy Bollywood type film helps raise awareness among people who can help, then it can be as glossy as it wants to be.
By Jesy, who falls firmly into the "Other" category