Strong opinions, weakly held

Slumdog Millionaire’s child actors

slumdog_millionaire.pngTwo of the child stars of Slumdog Millionaire apparently still live in abject poverty in the slums of India. This is one of the saddest things I’ve read. It would be unjustifiable under any circumstances, but particularly in this case because the children play major parts in the movie and act incredibly well. To make a movie that in part serves to highlight the plight of children in India that at the same time exploits the children involved is not the kind of irony one can laugh about.

Here’s a snippet of the living conditions of one of the actors:

Rubina and Azharuddin live a few hundreds yards from each other in a tangle of makeshift shacks alongside Mumbai’s railway tracks at Bandra. Azharuddin is in fact worse off than he was during filming: his family’s illegal hut was demolished by the local authorities and he now sleeps under a sheet of plastic tarpaulin with his father, who suffers from tuberculosis.

For purposes of comparison, here’s a slide show of some of the gifts in the gift bag given to Academy Award presenters. Maybe they should have asked to be allowed to present at the Academy Awards in lieu of payment.


  1. Please note the additional elements of the story:


    A Fox Searchlight spokesman said: “The welfare of Azhar and Rubnia 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 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.”

    Last night, Mr Boyle and the film’s producer Christian Colson defended their arrangements for the children.

    In a written statement they said that that 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”. It added: “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.

  2. That’s very nice but in the meantime perhaps arrangements could be made so they don’t have to live under a tarp.

  3. yes, this harsh treatment of children is just as bad as jurors that don’t know the history of a person condenming a human being to death.

  4. I’m curious where the truth lies between the parents’ claims and that of the studio.

    On one hand, it’s not as if filmmakers have never exploited people before. On the other hand, it wouldn’t exactly be unprecedented for the parents of child stars to mismanage, even squander, their children’s compensation.

    Just curious, that’s all.

  5. While the movie deals with the gory details of the underbelly of Mumbai, it doesnt really leave you with a sick feeling. The story feels like a commentary and at the end you just feel good about the whole movie. Very well done I must say.

    The music score by Rehman is amazing, the actors who played junior Jamal and Salim were the real stars. They were simply too good.

  6. in city of lights. the director gave the kids all his equipment at the end of the shoot. he also set up a school. and improved the slum. it doesn’t take much. slumdog millionaire is a trick by scumdogs and has the whole world in it’s grasp. the film really deserves only an award on the music score and on the performances of the two least paid actors. how come the middle class kid (who played young jamal got paid more?) this is disgusting. those kids made the movie. they were the only realistic part of a mediocre production. 3 times an adult slum dweller salary is hardly anything to be proud of. and when is it fair and just to say that we will pay you if you finish school. this is a film about poverty that perpetuates poverty with major effect of washing guilt from those that cause poverty by way of a magical game show. then they turn around and cause more.

  7. I meant City of God. by Fernando Meirelles, not City of Light. sorry.

  8. The film was amazing. AR Rahman’s Score was outstanding.

    The entire cast did a great job but the star of the entire film was without question Ayush Mahesh Khedekar. Despite his age, he was Oscar Worthy for his performance.

  9. munira rajput

    June 9, 2009 at 12:05 am

    Instead of paying the kids money for the movie instead, they can pay thier tution for thier school….so they atleast they might have oppertunities

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