MUMBAI (Reuters) - City authorities in Mumbai demolished the shanty home of a “Slumdog Millionaire” child star on Thursday, forcing his family into the streets months after the Oscar-winning film shot him to global fame.
Azharuddin Ismail, 9, played the character of Salim as a child in the film, a rags-to-riches romance about a poor Indian boy competing for love and money on a television game show.
Ismail’s tarpaulin-covered home in a teeming slum was one of several shanties, illegally built along a drain, that were demolished by local authorities in Mumbai, India’s financial capital and entertainment hub.
“When they came I was sleeping, they shook me awake and one policeman even threatened me,” Ismail, surrounded by half-broken suitcases filled with clothes and utensils, told Reuters.
“What can I do if they have demolished my house? I will sleep out in the open.”
A poster of “Slumdog Millionaire,” signed by director Danny Boyle, fluttered from the only wall of Ismail’s shanty still standing. Open sewers run nearby and it had no running water.
Authorities said the shanties had been demolished earlier but had sprung up again on the same spot.
“The shanties are all touching a drain that has to be cleaned before the advent of the monsoons,” said U.D. Mistry, the local official in charge of the demolition drive.
Earlier this year, there was an outcry after pictures emerged of “Slumdog Millionaire‘s” child stars living in squalor despite the movie’s box-office success and eight Academy Awards.
The film also sparked controversy for its name, deemed by some to be offensive to slum dwellers, and its treatment of the cast. Its depiction of the lives of poor Indians was dubbed “poverty porn” by sections of the media.
In February, the housing authority of Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital, said they would give Ismail and fellow child star Rubina Ali new houses. But Ismail’s mother, Shameem, said the family is now at the mercy of the rains.
“We also heard that the government had promised us houses, but what happened? We are still homeless,” she said. “My son has brought glory to the country, shouldn’t he get some credit?”
Writing by Tony Tharakan; Editing by Matthias Williams and Paul Tait