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Slumdog Millionaire kids still living in abject poverty, no one has called from film
April 11:
Published on 12 Apr. 2009 12:35 AM IST
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Dressed in the most expensive clothes they had ever worn, Slumdog Millionaire’s child stars thought their life of poverty and deprivation was over after the film’s haul of eight Oscars. They had been promised new homes, money and an education. But six weeks after being flown to Hollywood and lavished with praise Rubina Ali and Azharuddin Ismail feel angry, bitter and betrayed. Mention the name of Danny Boyle, once seen as the hero who would rescue them from the slums, and disappointment is etched across the face of the two children plucked from poverty to star in his hit film. Boyle and producer Christian Coulson stand accused of betraying the film’s most vulnerable young stars. Public promises of new homes, money and education have failed to materialise. No one from the production company has been to visit, nor have they bothered to phone. Rubina and Azhar, who played the youngest Latika and Salim, are still living in the slums – a year after filming their critically acclaimed roles, they are resigned to the likelihood that they always will. If the children are disappointed, their parents are furious. “We have been abandoned by Danny Boyle and his associates,” said Rafiq Qureshi, the father of Rubina. “He promised us a lot when the film won at the Oscars but since then no one has come to visit us. “We’ve been given no money and no house. There is no trust fund that I’ve been told about. The monthly allowance promised to Rubina and Azhar stopped before they even went to the Oscars. “I feel betrayed and hurt. All these promises came to nothing.” Boyle and Coulson repeatedly made public promises of education, money to buy a house and a trust fund for the children, claiming it was one of their top priorities. “We have paid painstaking and considered attention to how Azhar and Rubina’s involvement in the film could be of lasting benefit to them over and above the payment they received for their work,” said Boyle in a statement at the time of the Oscars. “The children had never attended school, and in consultation with their parents we agreed that this would be our priority. “Since June 2008 and at our expense, both kids have been attending school and they are flourishing under the tutelage of their dedicated and committed teachers. “Financial resources have been made available for their education until they are 18. We were delighted to see them progressing well when we visited their school and met with their teachers last week.” The reality, according to Rubina’s father, is somewhat different. Education at the government school is free. The only expense spent by Slumdog’s producers is on an autorickshaw to take them to school, costing £1 per day. Despite grossing over £185 million worldwide and winning eight Oscars the impoverished families of Slumdog’s youngest stars claim they do not even have enough money to buy simple medicines. And despite repeated public guarantees the financial security promised to the children and their families has yet to materialise. Last month Rubina and Azhar were sent by their desperate parents cap-in hand-to Sonia Gandhi, India’s most powerful politician, to plead their case for a new home. “We don’t have a good house to live in. We have made the country proud by acting in a film that won eight Oscar awards. We feel that we have done a good job for our country so we want Sonia to give us a good house,” said nine-year-old Rubina. Travelling to Delhi to meet Gandhi, the President of India’s ruling Congress Party, the two destitute child-actors and their families claimed they had been badly let down after their work in the multi-award winning film. “The film’s producers promised us a new home and that my child would receive a trust fund for her education, but nothing has come of this,” said Mr Quershi. “We were paid £700 for my child’s one month of work and other provisions such as traveling costs were provided, but what we were promised and what we have received does not match up.” On numerous occasions Coulson and Boyle promised the now famous children would be given money for a house and a trust fund that would be made available to them when and if they stayed in education until their 18th birthday. “These are bricks and mortar flats. They will have electricity, running water and good sanitation,” said Boyle a month ago. “They will still be close to their friends and extended family. Their community is very important to them, and they don’t want to move too far away from them.” Mr Qureshi, 36, is furious at what he sees as a betrayal. He has refused permission for Rubina to act in other films unless she is paid in advance. “When my child began filming at the beginning of 2008 we were led to believe that £35,000 would be split and used to buy my family and Azharuddin’s family two homes,” he said. “And we also believed that the same amount would be put aside in a trust fund to be split between Rubina and Azharuddin when they reached 18 and left school. “I have seen no papers, I have no bank details, no one from Celador or Fox-Searchlight has been to my home to see me. “I have given up on them because they seem to have forgotten about us. I should have known better than to trust them.”

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