February 25, 2009 / 5:17 AM / 10 years ago

"Slumdog" child actors to get new homes in India

MUMBAI (Reuters Life!) - The two main child actors from “Slumdog Millionaire” are to receive new homes from the Indian authorities after the small-budget movie swept the Oscars, winning eight Academy Awards.

Young actors from "Slumdog Millionaire" (front row L-R) Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, Rubina Ali, Ayush Manesh Khedekar, (back row L-R) Ashotosh Lobo Gajiwala, Tangi Ganesh Lonkar and Tanay Hermant Chheda arrive at the 81st Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 22, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The Mumbai homes will go to Rubina Ali and Azharuddin Ismail, who played the young roles of the movie’s central characters, Latika and Salim, in the rags-to-riches romance about a poor Indian boy competing for love and money on a TV game show.

“These two children have brought laurels to the country, and we have been told that they live in slums, which cannot even be classified as housing,” said Gautam Chatterjee, head of the state-run Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority.

Authorities did not say where the home would be only that the would be apartments and near a “prime location.”

Ali, 8, currently lives in a tiny hovel in a rubbish strewn slum near railway tracks in India’s financial hub. Ismail sleeps under a polythene sheet-covered roof in the same slum. Open sewers run nearby and both homes have no running water.

The movie, based in Mumbai which is part of Maharashtra state, took home eight awards from the Oscars including best picture and best director for Britain’s Danny Boyle.

But in the leadup to Sunday’s Oscars, the movie’s success around the globe was overshadowed by objections in India to its name which some Indians find offensive, its depiction of the lives of impoverished Indians, and the treatment of the cast.

There was an outcry after pictures emerged of the child stars living in squalor despite the $15 million movie earning about $100 million since its North American release last November.

But since the Oscars, India’s media has been caught in a patriotic frenzy and politicians have jumped on the bandwagon to praise Indians involved in the film.

Boyle and producer Christian Colson have flatly rejected claims of exploiting children for the movie.

They said the children were paid above local Indian wages and enrolled in school for the first time with a fund set up to pay for their education, medical emergencies and “basic living costs.”

Fox Searchlight Pictures, the 20th Century Film Fox studio behind the film, paid for visas, travel and accommodation for nine children to fly to Los Angeles for the Oscars.

Editing by Bappa Majumdar and Belinda Goldsmith

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