Slumdog kids get heroes’ welcome in Mumbai, return to slums temporarily

Anyone tuning in to the E! Red Carpet Oscar show saw the most adorable Indian child actors ever. The brave little souls from Slumdog Millionaire faced down Ryan Seacrest and his barrage of inanities, and probably even more from the other entertainment news outlets. The kids were cheerful and polite, if a little confused. But they bore it all well, and at the end of the night, they got to climb up on-stage as part of their film’s Best Picture win.

The day after the Oscars, the kids got a special treat – they got to go to Disneyland, which was probably a lot of fun for them. Then, after their whirlwind American visit, they returned home Mumbai, where they were greeted as conquering heroes. I saw the footage of this on MSNBC, and it was startling – there was a huge crush of people. But once again, the kids were brave, and even answered questions from the awaiting journalists. The Daily Telegraph has more:

Slumdog Millionaire’s child stars Azhuruddin Ismail and Rubina Ali have flown back to Mumbai from Los Angeles after their Oscar success. They headed straight back to the slums just days after being on stage to collect the film’s Best Picture award at the ceremony on Sunday.

They went from riches-to-rags again as two silver Mercedes swept them and their parents through the city and dropped them out at their homes in one of Mumbai’s dirtiest slums.

Azhuruddin, 10, was reluctant to leave the comfort of the air-conditioned cars as he was greeted by crowds at his home. Rubina, 9, clutched a small fluffy brown toy bunny and pair waved and blew kisses to the crowd, showing off their newly acquired red carpet skills.

Neighbours had put on a party for Azhuruddin, with large speakers playing the hit Bollywood songs from the film, but the planned celebrations turned into a chaos.

Azharuddin, who plays the young Salim in the film, was accompanied by his mother in LA and was greeted at the airport by his father who suffers from TB. The young actor said he had the time of his life in America.

“It was amazing,” he said. “I was signed autographs and was given a smart suit to wear. I didn’t understand much but it was fun. I did not know what the Oscars were before I went.”

“I was asked to sign autographs and everything. I felt like Shah Rukh Khan (one of Bollywood’s biggest stars). Danny-uncle (Danny Boyle) took us all around America. It was great to see him again. We went to Disneyland. I loved it so much.”

On Tuesday, Mumbai’s housing body announced they were giving the two families a flat each because they had made the country proud. However, for now, Azaruddin and Rubina are back from the red carpet and straight into the slum.

The movie’s two Indian Oscar winners, composer A R Rahman and sound engineer Resul Pookutty also were met by cheering throngs who showered them in flower petals as they arrived in their home towns.

Rahman, who won Oscars for musical score and the best song “Jai Ho” – “Be Victorious” in English – led the dancing crowd in chants of “Jai Ho!”

“They (the fans) almost killed me with their love,” he said after landing in the southern city of Madras. Pookutty was also overwhelmed by his reception.

“I never expected something like this,” he told reporters. “This is history being made,” he said of his award.

From The Daily Telegraph

It sounds really incredible, doesn’t it? And I love, love, love that they call Danny Boyle “Danny-Uncle”. It’s a very Indian thing, to treat Danny as a family member, and to refer to their director in such an affectionate, familial way.

The Daily Telegraph makes mention of the fact that the kids were dropped off in their slums homes, but I saw an interview with Dannny Boyle immediately after the Oscars, where he said that the kids and their families were definitely getting new homes. Maybe it’s going to take a little time for all of that to happen.

This must be such an extraordinary time for everyone involved in Slumdog Millionaire. The Bollywood film industry is so huge, and many Bollywood stars would enjoy a breakthrough to Hollywood films. On the same note, Hollywood would love to have a foothold in the Indian film market – increasing Indian interest in Hollywood films could bring in hundreds of millions of dollars a year for Hollywood. It’s so interesting that this film is, by many accounts, the breakthrough that Bollywood and Hollywood were looking for.

Photo Credit: BARM/Fame Pictures

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13 Responses to “Slumdog kids get heroes’ welcome in Mumbai, return to slums temporarily”

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  1. noname says:

    no offense and i know it’s been brought up before, but the title of this artilce as “slumdog kids…” really should be ” ‘slumdog’ kids. these are children and, while i know it is unintentional, to label them as such shows our ignorance and is wholly unacceptable. they are kids in the movie ‘slumdog millionaire’, they themselves, nor anyone born into such a situation that none of us, my self clearly included, could imagine should have such a horrible name near their picture

  2. HieronymousGrex says:

    And tomorrow they have to go back to work making shoes for walmart.

  3. Ling says:

    noname… I severely think the quotation marks were implied. Given that the word “slumdog” isn’t used at all as an insult in our society, the miss is forgivable. You really need to lower your sensitivity meter.

    Kaiser: The “uncle” honorific (“-ji”, I think it’s spelled) is hugely common. Basically anyone older than you is -ji. You’ll notice in the movie, during the scenes taking place on the “Millionaire” set, the host refers to the computer as Computer-ji.

  4. geronimo says:

    So sweet, the kids’ account of their experience.

  5. geronimo says:

    @Ling – not sensitivity, noname is right, the distinction should be made in the title. Mairead pointed out the rationale for this on the last ‘Slumdog’ thread and it still stands. Saves people getting offended unnecessarily.

  6. Ling says:

    Fair enough. I wasn’t privy to the argument last time around.

  7. becca says:

    Well, as long as the kids get better homes…

    That was the problem I had with the movie in the first place. I was under the impression the kids weren’t getting good homes.

  8. Bros says:

    for those who still think some great colonial wrong has been committed, I suggest reading the story below about compensation:

    and then the NY times published a behind-the-scenes look at the protests and the political climate in which they are taking place and the political reasons for why incendiary opposition is being stirred up and manipulated by politicians. these werent any ‘spontaneous protests.’

  9. Bina says:

    Actually, in South Asia, any man you don’t know but want to address is called “uncle” if you want to indicate that you are being polite but don’t really know this person. You could call a shopkeeper “uncle” or a man you were asking directions from, as long as he is older than you. That’s because there are specific names for your real uncles, such as mother’s brother, father’s brother, etc. So “uncle” is the South Asian equivalent of “Hey Mister”.

    However, you also call your parents’ friends “Uncle” and “Aunty”, so “Danny-Uncle” sounds about right.

    “-ji” is just a title of respect, like “san” in Japan. You could call me “Bina-ji” if you wanted to indicate politeness and respect to me. You don’t have to be younger or older to use this one.

    And just to make it even weirder, it’s very common for students to call their male teachers “Sir” (a throwback from British times). Always makes me laugh to hear a teacher referred to as “Sir So-and-So”, as if they’ve been knighted!

  10. Christina says:

    i really loved this movie… i’ve always had a love for indian culture… they have great historical figures, beautiful, colorful clothes, fun festivals, interesting animals, spirituality that has greatly influenced the western world (ie: yoga), nice people and really really good food… and i’m glad that this movie is instigating interest in india… i have a lot of indian friends and they’re pretty cool…

  11. Don'tStopBecause says:

    @ Bros – did you read that Diversity article? It reads, in part:

    “In fact, they say they’ve paid for the children, who had never been to school before 2008, to go to elementary school. They’ve also paid for them to go to secondary school and they’ve paid them for basic-living needs, healthcare and emergency needs.

    If the kids wind up going on to higher education, those costs will be covered by a fund set up by Fox Searchlight, the distributor of the movie.

    However, many children of the poorest regions of India never go to school and are destined for an impoverished life; higher education is rarely an option. So even if the children’s educations are paid for in their earlier years, there remains a possibility that they’ll never get access to the larger sums of money put aside for higher education.”

    So these kids only get the FULL Fox ‘fund’ money if they got to elementary AND secondary school AND then manage to get into higher education. Can you imagine this type of contract would be acceptable for a child actor in America or Europe? It strikes me as incredibly neo-colonial to tie payment to education in a country where education (at any level) is notoriously difficult to access.

  12. Keiloooooooooooo says:

    Well im SriLankan and its common practice to refer to someone whos older than you (but yet someone you do not necessarily know) as uncle or aunty out of respect. Sweet kids, glad to see them get the opportunity millions do not have, it must b very exciting for them.

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