Child star turned driver recalls own "Slumdog" past

Wed Mar 25, 2009 2:37am EDT
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By Sumeet Chatterjee

BANGALORE (Reuters Life!) - Once he was as famous as the child stars from "Slumdog Millionaire," but Shafiq Syed's own rags-to-riches story has ended and he now earns $3 a day driving a motor rickshaw.

Having basked in the limelight for his portrayal of a street kid in the 1988 Oscar-nominated film "Salaam Bombay," Syed struggles to feed a family of five at his home in southern India.

"Today the situation is so bad that if I earn today my family will get to eat something tomorrow," he told Reuters.

Watching the child stars of "Slumdog Millionaire" in Los Angeles as the film swept the Oscars in February reminded Syed of his own childhood and short-lived fame.

Like the "Slumdog Millionaire" actors, Syed was also plucked from Mumbai's teeming slums and catapulted to global stardom.

In 1987, and aged 12, Syed ran away from his home in Bangalore with some friends to Mumbai.

With no money to spend in the country's financial and entertainment capital, Syed sheltered under a flyover near the city's crowded Churchgate railway station.

"It was so difficult to survive in those conditions and some of my friends returned to their homes after a couple of weeks," he said. "I was, however, determined not to go back home."   Continued...