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‘Slumdog Millionaire’ Child Stars Are Still Living in Destitution Despite Box Office Success

Slumdog Millionaire
Fox Searchlight

‘Slumdog Millionaire’ was the main movie attraction of 2008, and it has eight Oscars, including the one for Best Picture, to prove it. Compared to the grand scheme of movie budgets, the film started off with generally low funding (estimated $15 million) and has since raked in more than $141 million world wide at the box office.

Aside from this success, ‘Slumdog’s’ story of a Mumbai teen growing up in the slums to win the grand prize on ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ was made all the more special for including castmembers Azhar Ismail and Rubina Ali — both of who portrayed the lead characters’ younger selves in the film and both of who were living in the real-life Mumbai slums. On the surface, it seemed like everything was finally going well for these kids once filming ended, but when the two flew back home after sharing in the Oscar celebrations, their lives were just as destitute as before.

“When we came back from the Oscars we were so happy. We had all these dreams about what we were going to do and how our lives were going to change,” Rubina told The National. “People promised us many things and we believed them. But my dreams have not come true.”

Since returning to squalor three years ago, both child stars lost both their shacks due to a demolition initiative by authorities seeking to end illegal living conditions. Rubina also lost all of her ‘Slumdog’ properties — including, she recalls, her Oscar dress — when a fire ravaged the Garib Nagar slum.

At the time, both had the trust fund set up by director Danny Boyle, which kicked in this year, to look forward to, but the trust set her up in an “unfinished,” graffitied apartment in a “rundown” part of the suburb. Azhar, in turn, was placed in a “down-at-heel” neighborhood; and worse yet, the trust stated it would not pay to make their living arrangements habitable.

“I still have no privacy. In the slum it was exactly the same, so what is the difference between this and the slum? I still have to share with everyone. There are seven of us, all in here,” said Rubina. “What use is a shower when there is no water?” According to the child star, Boyle is not the one to blame, but instead she directs her anger at the people he charged to look after them.

As of now, the only income coming in is a monthly allowance of Rs 7,000 (approximately $128 USD), as both Rubina’s parents are unable to find much work. Rubina hopes to be featured in the upcoming British film ‘Lord Owen’s Lady,’ but has so far heard nothing from the production studio.

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