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The fate of former child stars

The Indian media continues to reflect on the reality behind the Slumdog hype, even as it celebrates the eight Oscar wins with as much as five pages of coverage per paper.  

All the biggies suggest that "Smile Pinki" — India's win in the short documentary category — will have to make a big impact before the problem of cleft palate is eliminated, with as many as a million little Pinkis still waiting for operations.

But the story that hit home for me was the Indian Express account of the fate of the child stars of the 2005 documentary winner, "Born into Brothels."  The real-life story of children born to sex workers in Kolkata, the film was meant to showcase the transformative power of art. Directors Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman distributed cameras to the children of prostitutes and taught them how to film the stories of their lives. But not everybody was transformed.

While at least two of the brothel children made it to the U.S. to start ordinary lives, at least one returned to a life of prostitution almost before the production team made it off stage with the statuette.

"In her teens when she appeared in Oscar celebratory pictures, cutting cakes to beaming with joy posing with her fellow cast and crew, [Anjali] is today one of the 5,000 full-time prostitutes in Sonagachi — the same profession her mother was in," writes the Express.

Consider that several of the young actors in Slumdog really do live in slums, and a million kids need cleft palate operations.  That's a pretty grim statement on the transformative power of Oscar-winning films.