MUMBAI, India – The makers of “Slumdog Millionaire” met the film’s two impoverished child stars Wednesday and reassured them they will soon have new homes but the father of one of the children stormed out of the meeting.
Rafiq Qureshi, the father of nine-year-old Rubina Ali, said the filmmakers have not done enough to help.
Ali and Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, 10, both lost their homes this month after city authorities bulldozed parts of their slum in Mumbai. Rubina has been staying with relatives and Azhar has been living in a makeshift shanty of tarps and blankets with his parents.
“We’ve been trying for a long time to move them into legal accommodation,” director Danny Boyle told reporters at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences on the outskirts of Mumbai, where he and producer Christian Colson met the children and their families.
Relations between the filmmakers and the children’s families have grown tense since the phenomenal success of the film, which grossed more than US$326 million.
The filmmakers set up a trust aimed at ensuring the children get proper homes, a decent education, a monthly stipend and a nest egg when they finish high school. They have pledged to spend up to $100,000 to buy the two families new apartments and have donated $747,500 to a charity to help slum children across Mumbai.
Colson has described the trust as substantial but will not tell anyone how much it contains – not even the children’s parents – for fear of making the youngsters vulnerable to exploitation.
Nirja Mattoo, who helps oversee the children’s trust, said a new home has been found for Azhar’s family near to his school and neighbourhood. “We are finalizing the deal. Next week it should be done,” she said.
The hunt for Rubina’s house continues, she added.
But Qureshi says Boyle has not done enough.
“It’s no big deal for them, this kind of money. It’s been five or six months we’ve been living in such difficulty. They should help us,” he said in an interview after he cut the meeting short in anger.
“After the Oscars they forgot about us,” he added. “For two months we didn’t get any money.”
Mattoo declined to comment on Qureshi’s behaviour.
“We’re trying our best to get it (a house) as soon as possible,” she said by phone.
Boyle said he planned to make two more films set in Mumbai.
-With files from Gautam Singh and Rajanish Kakade in Mumbai