Adele Elliott: Slumdogs and fat cats

February 21, 2009

Adele Elliott - adeleelliott@bellsouth.net

 

Oscar hype is a very big deal in many places. Not so much in Columbus, I suppose, since most of the Academy Award nominated films are not shown locally. We''ll probably catch them, after the fact, on HBO. 

 

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is high on my list of "must sees." It was filmed in New Orleans, a truly photogenic city. Several of our friends'' homes make cameo appearances. That, and the fact that the script is based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald story, are certainly worth the price of admission. (Or the price of premium cable.) 

 

Chris and I may, however, make the trip to "Starkvegas" to see "Slumdog Millionaire." The buzz about that film is truly seductive. It is a fantasy about a boy from one of the most impoverished places in India, who, amazingly, wins 20 million rupees on a television show. 

 

The child is a product of a Mumbai ghetto that confines one million people in an area of about 1 square mile. He is part criminal, part beggar, part entrepreneur. 

 

The majority of Americans have an attraction/repulsion for India. We love seeing romantic images of the Taj Mahal, jewel-colored saris and elaborate temples. But, we also cringe when phoning for "technical support," and hearing someone with a Ghandi-esque accent claiming to be "Tim" or "Mary." They''re taking our jobs while speaking English better than we do. 

 

The reviews of this movie have brought back memories of a book that influenced me strongly in my late teens. "The Population Bomb," written by Paul Ehrlich, predicted mass starvation and other doomsday effects of over-population. The author described the streets of India, teeming with humans. 

 

No matter that his predictions have since been debunked, the spell was cast. I have never forgotten the terrifying descriptions of that country and truly believe that book is the reason I am childless today. 

 

Perhaps, many of my generation were alarmed by the impending horrors of human proliferation. We, as a group, reproduced less than our parents and unquestionably much less than our grandparents. 

 

In some other countries, this was not the case. The residents of that Mumbai ghetto live the nightmare predicted in "The Population Bomb." 

 

The view into India''s squalid underbelly has spawned a new travel trend -- visiting the misfortune pictured in "Slumdog Millionaire." (No, I did not make this up.) 

 

Tourists from all over the globe journey to observe the sordid scene, and to examine (well, not too closely) the sad lives of the natives. Travelers touch the soles of their expensive shoes onto the filthy streets in wonder at this other world. Poverty as spectator sport. Who knew? 

 

This sort of enterprise opens the door to so many vacation locales. Genocide in Darfur? The aftermath of hurricanes and earthquakes? Plane crashes? There is always a nice war going on somewhere. Traditional resorts should be very worried. They may need to provide more than spa treatments and pina coladas. 

 

Do these visitors have too much money to spend? Just because you can do something, doesn''t mean you should do it. For heaven''s sake, destitution is not a floor show performed by the happy indigenous people. Do I have to explain that to you? 

 

I think I''ve talked myself out of even seeing the movie. Maybe I''ll just stay in town and go see "Mall Cop" or a warmed-over "Pink Panther." After all, the bungling Inspector Clouseau could only have improved since his first incarnation about 40 years ago. 

 

A two-star production may possibly be all my little brain can handle. Those in charge of choosing movies locally apparently think so. Should someone tell them adults actually buy theater tickets occasionally? 

 

Poor Oscar, your favorites may be missed in our town. And, on the bright side, if the economy gets any worse, we may be presenting the U.S. as a pit stop on the "Hard-Times" world tour. Academy award-winning? Perhaps. 

 

Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina. E-mail reaches her at adeleelliott@bellsouth.net.

Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.