London (ANI): Poor parents of Slumdog Millionaire stars have accused the film's producers of exploiting their children. They claim that the eight-year-olds were poorly paid for working in the film that has won four Golden Globes, and has been nominated for 10 Oscars. According to them, Azhauddin Ismail and Rubina Ali were paid less than many domestic servants.
While Rubina is said to have been paid just 500 pounds for a year's work, Azharuddin received 1,700 pounds. Fox Searchlight, the film's American distributors, disputed this by saying the fees were more than three times the average annual salary an adult in their neighbourhood would receive. "The welfare of Azhar and Rubnia has always been a top priority for everyone involved with Slumdog Millionaire," the Telegraph quoted a spokesman as saying. He, however, would not disclose the actual sum paid to the children.
While British director Danny Boyle has spoken of how he set up trust funds for Rubina and Azharuddin and paid for their education, their families say that they have received no details of the trust funds set up in their names. The parents say that they hoped the film would be their ticket out of the slums, but both kids continue to live in grinding poverty. Their parents say that the film's success made them realise how little their children had been paid.
Rubina and Azharuddin live a few hundreds yards from each other in a tangle of makeshift shacks alongside Mumbai's railway tracks at Bandra. The illegal hut Azharuddin's family resided in has been demolished by the local authorities, and he currently sleeps under a sheet of plastic tarpaulin with his father, who suffers from tuberculosis.
"There is none of the money left. It was all spent on medicines to help me fight TB. 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," Azharuddin's father, Mohammed Ismail, said. Rubina's father, Rafiq Ali Kureshi, a carpenter by profession, broke his leg during filming and has been out of work since.
"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," he said. Boyle and the film's producer Christian Colson defended their arrangements for the children.
"(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," they said in a written statement.
The statement 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." It further said that a "substantial lump sum" would be paid to the children on completion of their studies.