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amadeus 04-30-2009 10:54 AM

No happily ever after for ‘Slumdog’ kid stars
 
As Keith keeps saying:

SOURCE: MSNBC No happily ever after for ‘Slumdog’ kid stars - Celebrities- msnbc.com

No happily ever after for ‘Slumdog’ kid stars

9-year-old actress shares sewage-filled one-room shack with rats, scorpions

MUMBAI, India - Rubina Ali's house is flooded with sewer water, and her feet itch. She's discovered a world of creepy-crawlies in the opaque gray water: scorpions, rats and slithery creatures with lots of legs.
Two months ago, the child star of the hit movie "Slumdog Millionaire" was worrying about what to wear to the Oscars. Now she has come home to a very different problem: How to get the fetid water out of her family's one-room shack.
The 9-year-old picked up a plastic bucket Monday and began to scoop, but it was hopeless. "There are a lot of rats," she told The Associated Press with a shudder, standing in water above her ankles. "In the night also."
Eight Oscars and $326 million in box office receipts have so far done little to improve the lives of the film's two impoverished child stars.
Rubina and co-star Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail have been showered with gifts and brief bursts of fame, but their day-to-day lives are little changed. In some ways, things have gotten worse: Azhar's neighborhood has grown crowded and tense. Rubina's house is flooded. And fame has brought both opportunity and shame.
If there is a happily ever after, Azhar and Rubina haven't found it yet.

"Slumdog" filmmakers insist they've done their best to help. They set up a trust, called Jai Ho, after the hit song from the film, to ensure the children get proper homes, a good education and a nest egg when they finish high school. They also donated $747,500 to a charity to help slum kids in Mumbai.
Producer Christian Colson has described the trust as substantial, but won't tell anyone how much — not even the parents — for fear of making the children vulnerable to exploitation.
Azhar and Rubina finished their first term at the English-language school the filmmakers enrolled them in and plan to return in June when classes resume.

Noshir Dadrawala, a Jai Ho trustee, said the families have been shown several apartments in Mumbai, but rejected them all. "They said it's too far from where they are now living. We are going to do a second round. We hope they will like what we are offering," he said. "We are not dragging our feet. It's they who are dragging their feet," he added.

There have been other offers, but none have materialized so far.

Developers promised the children houses in a fancy new development billed as an eco-friendly sanctuary of villas and high-rise apartments being built in Kerala, on India's far-southern tip. But it's nearly 1,000 miles away, and neither family wants to leave Mumbai. The government offered them apartments closer to home, but has yet to deliver. By law, politicians cannot distribute such gifts in the run-up to national elections, which conclude next month.

'Slumdog' stars now a couple off the screen


The families say the D.Y. Patil International School, which offers coveted — and pricey — international baccalaureate degrees, also offered them scholarships, though school officials declined to comment.

And then there are the scandals.

A few days after the British tabloid News of the World reported that Rubina's father offered to sell her to one of its reporters disguised as a rich sheik, an Indian businessman who lives in Qatar came forward with an offer to pay for the girl's education through college, her family said.

"The fake sheik and the real sheik," Rubina's father, Rafiq Qureshi said, laughing.

Qureshi denies all wrongdoing, and has not been charged with any crime, but the incident opened old family wounds.

Rubina's estranged mother, Khurshida Monish Dewade, reappeared after seven years, and images of her and Rubina's stepmother, Munni, pulling each other's hair were broadcast around the world.

Rubina tries to ignore the drama. Asked if she wants to live with her dad, she nodded "Yes," then stuck the headphones back in her ears and belted out off-key lyrics to one of her favorite "Slumdog Millionaire" songs.

Both children have become adept at dealing with the packs of journalists who descend on their homes with each new twist in the "Slumdog" saga. And fame has brought small opportunities.

The children landed roles in a new Bollywood film. Azhar got hired for a photo shoot. They both starred in a fashion show in New Delhi and a concert in Chennai.

But after each brief tour, they return home to the place they know best, the slum of Garib Nagar, "the city of the poor."

Here, neighbors cling to Azhar's fame like a charm, saying he has become the de facto protector of their community.

Slum residents say authorities tore down their homes last year to make way for a municipal park, but since the Oscars they've been able to rebuild. Now shacks of corrugated metal stand where people once huddled beneath tarpaulins.

"Since Azhar is here, there is no worry for us," said neighbor Ramdas Ambadas Gaikwad, a 35-year-old rickshaw driver. "Because of Azhar the demolition has stopped."

Still, even Azhar's celebrity was no match for the local slumlord who came in and built nine new shacks on the already overcrowded spit of land where his family lives. New families were crammed in, and relations between the newcomers and the old-timers are not good.


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