Slumdog’s Charred Dreams

She shone in a small role in Slumdog Millionaire. Her career has not gone places after its blockbuster success. Unike Freida Pinto, no one hangs on to her words or report on the clothes she wears to galas. She hasn’t signed another role or acted with Woody Allen. In fact, she would be glad to just go back to school again. Rubina Ali would be happy with a simple wardrobe. And stay in a house that does not burn down every couple of years. She still lives in the slums of Bandra. It was the place where she found fame, stardom and misery. More misery, in fact. She was promised a home with great fanfare when the movie grabbed all the Oscars a couple of years ago. And yet, that has not come to pass. The reporters probably recognise her and know the way to her tenement. But they cover it only when it gets razed again. Otherwise, she’s not newsworthy.

Hers is not a rags to riches story. It’s a rags-to-temporary-riches-to-rags story. And it’s not likely to change any time soon. She does not have an education. Or access. Or the street smarts to circulate and get to the places where she could land another role. She went to Hollywood, posed for pictures with the biggest stars and came back with empty promises. Back to the hovel she calls her home. With a smile on her face, she answered questions. But I wonder what it feels like to swing between these absolute extremes. The slums of Mumbai and the red carpet of the Kodak theater. Most people would not have the will to survive a broken heart. And yet, she soldiers on.

The picture accompanying the report on BBC says it all. From the time her face lit up the screen in 2009, she has traversed through triumph and tragedy like an addict’s cocaine mood swings. Her story would not make sense if it were scripted by an Oscar winner. It does not move from deprivation to success or in fact, go anywhere at all. It’s like being at fame’s golden gateway with the doors locked. But it’s early days. Just 12 years old and she’s already experienced what most people go through in a lifetime. Let’s see if fortune deals her a great deck again.