'Slumdog...' children were under-paid, allege parents

London, Jan 27 (IANS) The parents of two shantytown child actors whose skills helped "Slumdog Millionaire" win Oscar nominations and millions in gate receipts have said they were underpaid by the film's makers.

The parents of Rubina Ali and Azharuddin Ismail, who live along railway tracks in Bandra, Mumbai, have accused the film's producers of exploiting and underpaying the eight-year-olds, the Daily Telegraph reported in a front-page report Tuesday.

They said Rubina, who played Latika, was paid 500 pounds for a year's work while Azharuddin, who acted as Salim, received 1,700 pounds.

The British newspaper said they were paid “considerably less” than the poor Afghan child stars of "The Kite Runner", who embarrassed their Hollywood producers when they disclosed that they had been paid 9,000 pounds.

“There is none of the money left. It was all spent on medicines to help me fight TB,” Azharuddin's father, Mohammed Ismail, told the Daily Telegraph.

“We feel that the kids have been left behind by the film. They have told us there is a trust fund but we know nothing about it and have no guarantees.”

Rubina's father Rafiq Ali Kureshi, a carpenter who has been out of work since breaking his leg during filming, said: “I am very happy the movie is doing so well, but it is making so much money and so much fame and the money they paid us is nothing.

“They should pay more. I have no regrets. I just had no knowledge of what she should have been paid.”

Rubina told the paper: “I want to be a star like Freida (Pinto). I am going to ask Danny-uncle (director Danny Boyle) to take me to London and be in more films.”

A spokesman for the American distributors Fox Searchlight said: "The welfare of Azhar and Rubina has always been a top priority for everyone involved with 'Slumdog Millionaire'.

"A plan has been in place for over 12 months to ensure that their experience gained while working on 'Slumdog Millionaire' would be of long term benefit. For 30 days' work, the children were paid three times the average local annual adult salary.

“Last year after completing filming, they were enrolled in school for the first time and a fund was established for their future welfare, which they will receive if they are still in school when they turn 18.

"Due to the exposure and potential jeopardy created by the unwarranted press attention, we are looking into additional measures to protect Azhar and Rubina and their families. We are extremely proud of this film, and proud of the way our child actors have been treated."

Director Boyle and producer Christian Colson said in a written statement Monday they had “paid painstaking and considered attention to how Azhar and Rubina's involvement in the film could be of lasting benefit to them over and above the payment they received for their work.”

“The children had never attended school, and in consultation with their parents we agreed that this would be our priority. Since June 2008 and at our expense, both kids have been attending school and they are flourishing under the tutelage of their dedicated and committed teachers.

"Financial resources have been made available for their education until they are 18. We were delighted to see them progressing well when we visited their school and met with their teachers last week.”

A “substantial lump sum” would be paid to the children on completion of their studies, the statement added, according to the newspaper.

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