Rubina Ali and Azharuddin Ismail, two of the child actors in “Slumdog Millionaire,” are still living in the slums of Mumbai, despite the film’s $14 million budget and worldwide success. Ali earned 500 British pounds ($710) for one year’s work and Ismail earned 1700 pounds ($2414), “less than many Indian domestic servants“:
Both children were found places in a local school and receive £20 a month for books and food. However, they continue to live in grinding poverty and their families say they have received no details of the trust funds set up in their names. Their parents said that they had hoped the film would be their ticket out of the slums, and that its success had made them realise how little their children had been paid.
Ismail is in fact “worse off” now, as his “family’s illegal hut was demolished by the local authorities and he now sleeps under a sheet of plastic tarpaulin.” Ali lives nearby — in a “hut.” A Fox Searchlight spokesperson said he is “proud” of their treatment and boasted, “For 30 days work, the children were paid three times the average local annual adult salary.”
UDPATE: ThinkProgress received statements from the filmmakers and distributors of Slumdog Millionaire, which we have pasted below:
From the moment that we hired them and long before the press became interested in this story, we have 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.
In addition to their educational requirements, a fund is in place to meet their basic living costs, health care and any other emergencies. Furthermore, as an incentive for them to continue to attend school a substantial lump sum will be released to each child when they complete their studies. Taking into account all of the children’s circumstances we believe that this is the right course of action.
Since putting in place these arrangements more than 12 months ago we have never sought to publicize them, and we are doing so now only in response to the questions raised recently in the press. We trust that the matter can now be put to bed, and we would request that the media respect the children’s privacy at this formative time in their lives.
– Danny Boyle and Christian Colson
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 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.
– Fox Searchlight Pictures, Fox Star Studios, Pathe International