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8 Oscars for Slumdog Millionaire

Zero awards for M.I.A

By our correspondent Lalith Ganhewa in Germany

(February 24, Berlin, Sri Lanka Guardian) "Slumdog Millionaire" swept the boards with 8 Oscar awards last night and was the big winner at the 81st Oscar award ceremony in Hollywood.

In a total of 24 categories, Bollywood's 'Slumdog Millionaire' has managed to devastate Hollywood with 8 Awards: "Best Film", "Best Direction", "Best Film Song", "Best Sound Track", "Best Editor", "Best Sound", "Best Camera" and "Best Screenplay".

British director Danny Boyle relates the story of the millions living in the Indian metropolis of Mumbai. A young orphan boy from the slums enters the Indian version of the TV quiz show "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?" - he makes it to the finals by knowing how to convince the jury. Danny Boyle, who also directed "Trainspotting," and "The Beach", focuses on such abuses in India as poverty, child labour, violence and police arbitrariness. The film has created a heated controversy in India among some nationalistic circles and Boyle has been accused of creating "poverty-pornography".

The soundtrack for "Slumdog Millionaire" was composed by A. R. Rahman; a unique mixture of Bollywood sound with hip-hop. Two songs were nominated for Oscars - "O saya " music & words by A. R. Rahman and the British hip-hop singer MIA (of Sri Lankan Tamil origin) and sung by A. R. Rahman himself. "Jai Ho" was the second song running fort he Oscar with music composed by A. R. rahman and words by the famous Indian lyricist Gulzar.

Mathangi Arulpragasam goes by the professional name of M.I.A. She says that her real name is too complicated for western showbiz, and uses the short form M.I.A., which she says also stands for Missing in Acton, a London suburb. Prior to the Oscar awards with the song "Paper Planes" , she claimed in the media to be the voice of the discriminated Tamils of Sri Lanka. But, as far as the Oscars were concerned, she went home empty-handed.

MIA, who in the past was denied a visa to enter the United States due to her terrorist connections, is now a resident of Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, New York. She has been accused of advocating the LTTE struggle in her live concerts. Appearing on PBS TV Travis Smiley's talk show MIA said "Tamil civilians and Tamil tigers are like a square and a circle".

MIA's father Arul Pragasam was a founding member of the Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students (EROS), a political Tamil group which worked to establish the independent state Tamil Eelam. In 1976, the EROS established links with the Abu Jihad of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and began planning the setting up of camps to train Sri Lankan Tamils in military and guerrilla warfare. EROS even opened up their training camp for the LTTE where Prabhakaran had his initial training. The Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO), EPRLF and PLOTE sent their own men to the PLO's camps for training under the request of EROS, and EROS also organised for men of other groups to be sent. A number of Tamils, including many who would later form the core of other Tamil militant groups, began their militant careers in these camps.

In many of her interviews she has acted as a self acclaimed spokesperson trying to justify the terrorism in Sri Lanka. But despite being a mother of two children, she failed to speak one word against the recruitment of under age children by the LTTE. Since "Paper Planes" was nominated for an Oscar, MIA has avoided all interviews that could embarrass her by bringing up such uncomfortable topics as her father's reputed connections to terrorism. Further it could create problems for her US residence Visa.

The US journalist Ru Freeman was quoted as saying "if MIA is to get an Oscar this year, then Bin Laden should also be nominated for an Oscar next year". Therefor the Oscar Jury was absolutely right in their decision to award "Jai Ho" as the best film song at the Oscar.

Since the nomination of "Paper Planes", MIA has been trying to use the terrorist problem in Sri Lanka for her advantage by trying to whitewash the terror acts of LTTE. But MIA badly miscalculated her self-serving promotional campaign promoting hate between the Sinhalese and Tamils.

MIA was answered appropriately by Rahman himself. In his short acceptance speech for the award for "Best Song", Rahman said "All my life I had the choice of choosing between love and hate, and I chose love. And that's why I'm here today. God bless you".

See A. R. Rahman receiving the awards.


Our correspondent in Germany Lalith Ganhewa can be reached at slgfrg@srilankaguardian.org
-Sri Lanka Guardian

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