Once under fire for not doing enough for its impoverished Indian child stars, the makers of “Slumdog Millionaire” said on Wednesday they had bought a flat for one of them whose Mumbai shanty home had been demolished.
Director Danny Boyle and producer Christian Colson flew into Mumbai after pictures of Azharuddin Ismail and Rubina Ali picking ACthrough the debris of their homes — torn down by the civic authorities as illegal — were splashed in the media.
Smiling and hugging the children, Boyle said a home had been bought for Ismail, 9, who played the character of Salim as a child. He added they would soon buy one for Ali as well, who plays the young Latika.
Boyle, who came under fire for not doing enough for the children who lived in squalor despite the film’s success, blamed the media for raising the families’ expectations.
“Inevitably, the tension and pressure is media generated,” he said, after greeting Ali and Ismail with a hug.
“They were given access to a world, an extraordinary and glamorous world, and they understandably want their lives to be completely transformed,” said Boyle.
“The homes are a concern. That is one of the reasons why we built the trust,” he said.
The “Jai Ho” trust, named after the film’s award-winning track, and set up by Boyle and Colson, is meant to pay for the education and basic living costs of Ismail and Ali until they turn 18.
Boyle, whose rags-to-riches romance about a poor Indian boy competing in a TV game show scooped eight Academy Awards earlier this year, said he was pushing the trust to find a place for Ali before the monsoon rains, due around June 10.
A director for the trust said the apartment for Ismail was “comfortable, in a good neighbourhood (and) near his school” and cost “upwards of 2 million rupees” ($42,000).
“We have been trying to accelerate the process of re-housing the families, and one of the reasons we set up the trust is to deal with emergencies like this,” said Colson.
Boyle and Colson last month also donated 500,000 pounds to a non-profit organisation to support a programme for children in a slum in central Mumbai, where the film was largely shot.
In February, the state housing authority said it would give the two children apartments, but the families have not heard from them, said Rafik Qureshi, Ali’s father.
“The kids have done such a good job. They haven’t got anything. See where the kids are staying,” he said.
Slumdog Millionaire child star Rubina Ali had to spend a night sleeping on the floor of an Indian hospital after her slum home was bulldozed. The nine-year-old star suffered from flu after spending two days homeless on the streets of Mumbai. She was taken to the nearby Bhaba hospital, but because there were no beds left she had to lie in the arms of her aunt Mohidin on the floor.
“Rubina was out in the hot sun when they knocked down our home and then was exposed to the humid night,” the Sun quoted dad Rafiq Qureshi as saying. “It was extremely stressful for all my family and I am not surprised that this caught up with my daughter,” he added. However, Rubina has been discharged from hospital and is currently staying in a cramped House.