By CGG Reporter, Caroline Kotter
CGG sat down with Avijit Halder, who got the same star treatment while still living in severe poverty in India. Avijit is known as the gifted 11-year-old boy from Born into Brothels, the hit documentary that followed children living in the brothels of Calcutta, India.
Now 20, Avijit has captured his dream of moving to the U.S. for college, no easy feat for a kid who had a tough time even getting a passport because of his parents’ illegal work in the brothels.
Today, Avijit is no longer the "slumdog" kid, but a New York University first-year film major who hopes to become a filmmaker.
He has been through a lot of what Azhar Ismail and Rubina Ali are going through today with their contrasted exposure to the Western World, vicious media, confusing money and legal dilemmas, and much more. Read on to hear the facts straight from Avijit.
Celebs Gone Good:First of all, have you seen Slumdog Millionaire? There has been so much discussion about the movie recently.
Avijit Halder:I mean Slumdog Millionaire is a great movie. I loved it myself, except I mean, from a filmmakers point of view I have had problems with it, but as for its story it’s great.
CGG:What was it like leaving India for the first time as a young child on your trip to Amsterdam and then having to come back to the slums?
AH:That is exactly what changed me. Definitely the exposure to a different community, out of the brothel, and the kind of faith that I had after that. Like in myself, that people believe in me. I felt like I was more than what I think of myself in the brothel. People were listening to me. In the brothel, the only way I could express myself was in my paintings and photography. But after going to Amsterdam, I felt like if I could learn English and leave I could make it.
CGG:What was it like having a camera following you in the slums? What was the reaction of your community?
AH:Well, we kind of like trusted her [Zana] and so, we brought her home because she wanted to see where we lived. And I was embarrassed I was obviously embarrassed walking with them on the street because people teased us and stuff they would say “oh, now you guys are foreigners because you have foreigners with you.” I’m sure the children in Slumdog got the same reactions.
CGG:The filmmakers of Slumdog seemed to take so much from this community—they used their homes, their children etc. But what is their responsibility to give back to them? What do they owe to them?
AH:Well, I don’t think its just about compensating the kids in the movie. I think it’s about all of the children they are representing in the slum. I don’t think that they should do anything especially for them. Because it is bigger than that. If you are making a movie, even if its only with two people from that community, you are generalizing that community, you are showing that community. They should have thought of this before they made the film. I would like to suggest or warn future filmmakers that if you are going to make movies like this, people are going to have expectations from you, and you should make sure that you are aware of it, and you are working on it, before you make something just for yourself.
So there you have it! That's what Avijit thinks, what about you? Are the makers of Slumdog making good on their promises? Did the media judge them too soon? Or is the bottom line that kids should be out of slums by now? YOU decide, comment below!