Storytellers from the slums

Published: June 14, 2010
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Slumdog Millionaire actors Rubina Ali and Azharuddin walk the runway at Wills India Fashion Week in 2009. PHOTO: EPA

Slumdog Millionaire actors Rubina Ali and Azharuddin walk the runway at Wills India Fashion Week in 2009. PHOTO: EPA

PUNE: The child stars of the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire are making their way up the ladder of fame. Rubina Ali Qureshi, the girl who played little Latika, is launching the Marathi version of her autobiography on June 27. The book was originally published in French before it was translated into English.

“The book is essentially her memoirs, living as a child beside the gutters of Dharavi to the Oscars stage where she went live before the whole world with the movie team led by Danny Boyle,” said Qureshi’s publicist Dinesh Dubey.

Much to the shock of many people who thought the lives of these child stars had changed after the film’s massive success; Qureshi is still living in the same slum where she was born 11 years ago.

Concerned about her well-being in the Garib Nagar slum where Rubina lives, Dubey said, “Rubina feels insecure and unsafe there. The flat promised by the Maharashtra government has not yet been allotted, while the budget sanctioned by the Jai Ho Trust is falling short given the spiralling realty rates in Bandra.”

Azharuddin Mohammed Shaikh, who played the young Jamal, is also set to kick-start the English version of his book. Originally published in France during fall 2010, Slumboy is expected to do equally well among the Indian readers. “Work on the translation of Slumboy, co-authored with Mouhssine Ennaimi, is underway. We plan to release it around Diwali,” said Sunil Mehta, the proprietor of Mehta Publishing House,  which is the same company working on Qureshi’s book.

Shaikh and Qureshi are also preparing to play important roles in an upcoming Hollywood movie called Lord Owen’s Lady, along with Anthony Hopkins. The movie is being produced by Dragons Productions, said Dubey, who also acts as an agent for Qureshi. Shooting for the film is likely to start in early 2011 on locales in the US, Europe, the Middle East and India, he added.

Nearly two years after the triumph of Slumdog Millionaire at the Oscars, both Shaikh and Qureshi – hailing from the squalid neighbourhood of Garib Nagar slums in Bandra east – have developed a close bond. “They love each other’s company. They regularly catch up with each other, meet daily in school, laugh and play, share jokes and secrets – it’s a joy to see them,” Dubey said. Both of them study at the Pali Chimbai High School.

While Qureshi commutes from the Garib Nagar slum, Shaikh goes to the school from Santacruz, where he shifted to a flat allotted by the Jai Ho Trust, set up by Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle.

Dubey is all praise for Boyle’s new role as the benefactor and guardian of the two children. “He has taken up full responsibility for the education and upbringing of Azharuddin and Rubina. This is really admirable, considering that nobody from India has come forward to help them,” Dubey observed. Though Azharuddin and Rubina meet each other regularly, the rest of the Slumdog Millionaire team seems to have gone their own way.

They only come together two or three times a year when Boyle travels to Mumbai and makes it a point to throw a party for his entire Slumdog Millionaire team.

“A majority of them do come for the event. Otherwise, nobody interacts with each other despite having worked for a movie which created history and fired up the imagination of people,” the publicist said.

Published in the Express Tribune, June 15th, 2010.

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