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Last Updated 20.10.2019 | 10:36 PM IST
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Book Review: Slumgirl Dreaming

Rubina Ali

‘Slumgirl Dreaming’ is a very well written book. And for a celebrity, who is just a 9 year old, this book could perhaps be the first to come out in India. The girl in question is Rubina Ali, one of the many stars in Slumdog Millionaire who hasn’t quite enjoyed a fairy tale outing. From a poor life in slum to international adulation to charges being put against her father for selling her off to being back in a shanty and barely surviving, Rubina has lived a life which doesn’t quite justify a Cindrella reference.

Yes, she has enjoyed her months of glory but before and after that, this star has lived a slumgirl life that has seen dreams coming her way, though momentarily. ‘Slumgirl Dreaming’ gives a blow by blow account of this spirited girl who narrates her journey over the years, especially her experience of shooting for the film, the film’s Oscar run and life post that.

What actually works a masterstroke for this autobiographical tale is the coming together of writers Anne Berthod and Divya Dugar who interact with Rubina to translate her thought and statements into the printed words. They do well in sticking to Rubina’s innocence and childish antics and tell the world from her point of view rather than bringing to fore what they thought of her as a kid who became a star. So the entire narration of this 175 page book happens with Rubina telling her story and writers merely presenting it to the readers by refining it and smoothening the rough edges.

Anne and Divya do add their bit while keeping the essence of Rubina’s world intact. So while bringing to fore the kid’s point of view, they also get into finer details about the slums, the inhabitants there, the shooting experience, the coming together of an international crew, the wide eyed reactions of all the slum kids who were a part of the shoot, the five star hospitality, the return to India, the adulation, media pressure, a change in outlook of people and finally a regular day in the life of Rubina after coming face to face with the world pre-Slumdog Millionaire.

The thoughts remain intact; it’s just that the emotions are projected clearly to make a connection with the reader.

It is this connection factor that makes ‘Slumgirl Dreaming’a difficult book to keep down. 10 pages into this really handy and comfortable book and you want it finish it in two hours flat. One of the major reasons for this is the simplistic writing which would make even a 10 year old connect with the chapters that follow. In fact the book’s target audience is, as the cliché goes, from 6 to 60, as the story moves ahead in a highly engaging manner with just about everything for everyone.

The book aims (and pretty much succeeds) in ‘not’ romanticizing the episodes in Rubina’s life, whether good, bad or ecstatic. Picture this: When the pages take viewer into the filthy surroundings of a slum, you cringe in your seat, get a bad taste in the mouth but still do not get turned away from checking what is in store next. Credit must go to Rubina here who doesn’t paint a sorry picture of herself and plain and simple explains what this world means to her ever since she was born.

On the other hand, the moments of ecstasy too are kept under the control. Whether it is Rubina’s shooting experience or the Oscar celebrations or the luxurious life that she enjoyed for those few days after the ceremony, you know that it is all going to end soon. Even Rubina is shown to be pretty much in check without allowing her emotions go overboard. It is this fair balance that ‘Slumgirl Dreaming’ maintains throughout its journey which helps in the entire ‘connection’ factor, as highlighted earlier.

Some of the many highlights in the book are:

– What had actually transpired when stories about Rubina’s father willing to sell her off to a Sheikh were making the rounds

– Rubina’s love-hate relationship with another slumkid Azhar

– A middle man cheating her of the money that she was promised for Slumdog Millionaire

– The first audition that just required her to run around the room along with other children

– Her fear for the much famous train scene that actually got canned in a single take

– The actual story behind her real mother coming back to take her custody post Slumdog Millionaire fame

One time and again complains that there are no books worthy enough being written for children today. Well, ‘Slumgirl Dreaming’ could pretty much be a gift for your young ones. And for the elderly who want to explore deeper into the past of Rubina and how she has managed to keep a stable head in spite of a roller coaster ride in the couple of years gone by, ‘Slumgirl Dreaming’ has enough meat in it to grab your attention.

Price: Rs. 195/=

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