From rags to riches… in just three days: The real-life Slumdogs walk the red carpet at the Oscars
Just three days ago they were washing in dirty water and wearing rags, just another couple of Mumbai’s 2.5million slum children.
But this morning the real-life slumdogs dressed in brand new clothes, hastily purchased from American shops, to join the A-list stars walking the red carpet at the Oscars.
Plucked from obscurity to star in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog millionaire, their lives seem unlikely to ever be the same again. The change from barefooted urchins to tuxedo-clad darlings of Hollywood has been so abrupt that Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail hung his head in shyness as he clutched the hennaed hand of nine-year-old co-star Rubina Ali.
From rags to riches: Three days ago Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail was washing in dirty water, this morning he and co-star Rubina Ali are walking the red carpet at the Oscars
His reticence is understandable. For while the child actors initially returned to their lives in the slums after the 30-days of filming they have now made a remarkable journey.
Azharuddin’s home is a flimsy structure made of tarpaulins and blankets in the overcrowded Behrampada shanty area, where rats crawl around in daylight and sewage runs untreated as children play barefoot.
He couldn’t have come further from his place on the lowest rung of Indian society.
And after his initial shyness Azharuddin joined his co-stars in running after James Bond actor Daniel Craig to ask for his autograph. The British star happily obliged and spent a few minutes signing his name for the young stars.
Child stars: Slumdog millionaire actors Rubiana Ali, left, youngest Latika, and Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, youngest Jamal, hold hands as they arrive for the 81st Academy Awards
After that the youngsters rounded on Meryl Streep, who was so overcome that she kissed them all and signed their autograph books.
Slumdog Millionaire tells the uplifting story of a boy from the slums who wins the jackpot on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
The movie has grossed £70million worldwide, made British director Danny Boyle the darling of Hollywood and turned lead actors Dev Patel and Frieda Pinto into big names.
Rubina Ali Qureshi, 9, left, straddles a blocked drain next to an open area strewn with garbage near her home in a slum in Bandra, suburban Mumba
But following their taste of glamour the youngsters will still return to the homes where they live in squalor on the outskirts of Mumbai.
Boyle and producer Christian Colson said the child actors were paid ‘three times the amount of an annual adult salary’ for what amounted to a month’s work, although he has refused to give an actual figure.
A cheer for Hollywood: The cast of Slumdog Millionaire join director Danny Boyle, bottom right with glasses, on the red carpet
But their parents have raised worries that following the Oscars they will be ‘forgotten about’.
Boyle and Colson have strenuously denied claims that any of the children have been exploited.
In a statement, they said they ‘paid painstaking and considered attention to how Azharuddin and Rubina’s involvement in the film could be of lasting benefit over and above the payment they received for their work’.
Three days ago: Mohammed Azharuddin relaxes on a cot along with his father outside their shanty in the Behrampada slums of Mumbai on February 19