Slumdog Millionaire child stars still live in poverty

Six months after the Oscars, the children are sent back to the Indian slums

Plucking children from their real life living in the slums in Mumbai, India, to star in a multi-million dollar film, Slumdog Millionaire seemed like their ticket out of their poverty striken lives.

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Yet six months after the glitzy Oscar ceremony, Azhar Ismail and his co-star Rubina Ali find themselves back in the slums – a far cry from the bright new world they hoped for, according to a report in Grazia.

Losing her home to a bulldozer a few months back leaving her with no roof over her head, 10-year-old Rubina, who played heroine Latika in the Oscar winning film, is living in a small shack in Mumbai’s Garib Nagar slum.

Her co-star Azhar, also 10 and who played the part of Jamal Malik, has had more luck. He was housed in a tiny 12ft by 10ft, one-bedroom apartment in a rundown area in Santacruz by the film company’s trust – but is too afraid to leave his home alone after his dad recently died of tuberculosis.

Both children are soon releasing their autobiographies ironically talking about their life in the slums and since Slumdog Millionaire was released, and have had showbiz jobs since which had their perks.

“When I was in LA I met Gerald Butler on the red carpet and then he came to India. We met him and he gave us lots of chocolate,” recalls Rubina in the interview.

But unfortunately the perks came to an abrupt end and the realism of life back in the slums hit them hard. “Whenever we go abroad with Rubina and she meets these celebrities, everyone is happy to meet us. Then we come home and we forget about it and they forget all about us,” Rubina’s dad Rafiq explained.

The Slumdog film company, Celador, have set up the Jai Ho Trust, which claims to take care of the children it took from the slums into the Hollywood limelight. All they have managed to provide so far is a small flat for Azhar which he shares with various members of his family.

Grossing £86 million at the box office and winning a handful of Oscar awards, Slumdog Millionaire was a huge hit when it was released in 2008. Propelling its adult leading stars, Freida Pinto and Dev Patel, into Hollywood hot property, the child stars are still waiting for their big break.

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With both Azhar and Rubina’s autobiographies due out this month and a few other films in the pipeline, hopefully the children from the slums will become the movie stars they dream of.

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