"Slumdog" child dreams of becoming a Bollywood star

Mon Feb 2, 2009 8:36am EST
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By Rina Chandran

MUMBAI (Reuters Life!) - Rubina Ali is already a Hollywood star, and now the 9-year-old "Slumdog Millionaire" actress, who lives in a one-room shack with her family in a Mumbai slum, has her eyes firmly set on Bollywood.

Her dream has been whetted by the clamorous media attention and glitzy parties that followed the Mumbai premiere of the Oscar-nominated movie, a rags-to-riches tale of a young boy from a Mumbai slum, in which Ali plays the leading lady as a girl.

"I like films. I like poems and I like my school," said the bright-eyed girl, popping a piece of chewing gum in her mouth before confidently reciting English poems to visitors, her nose stud gleaming and pigtails bobbing.

Ali's education at an English-language school, where she is in the first grade, is a gift from "Danny Uncle," director Danny Boyle, who has denied a report in Britain's Daily Telegraph that slum children in the film were poorly paid.

The school -- Ali's first -- and photographs of the premiere and a helicopter ride for the kids in the film are among the few mementos Ali's mother, Munni, has of the movie that is raking in awards even as they continue to live in a shack no different from dozens around them, with no windows, running water or toilets.

"She was very happy to be in the film. Now she wants to be in more films Danny Boyle makes and become a star," Munni said of the movie that has generated controversy in India over its name, its depiction of the poor and the treatment of the cast.

"She's very stubborn, very spoiled because she's the youngest child. Whatever she wants, she gets," she said, as she puts away her daughter's school backpack, black shoes and white socks.

Ali and Azharuddin Ismail, who also plays a slum child in the feature, were enrolled last June in English-language schools paid for by Boyle, who also met their teachers.   Continued...

<p>Rubina Ali, who acted in 'Slumdog Millionaire", removes her shoes after returning from school at her residence at a slum in the northern suburb of Bandra in Mumbai January 27, 2009. REUTERS/Arko Datta</p>