India's Congress party offers 'Slumdog' child stars new homes

By AFP

June 18, 2010 Updated May 30, 2009 at 12:11 PM EST

Two child actors from the Oscar-winning film "Slumdog Millionaire" have been offered new homes by the ruling Congress party of India's western state of Maharashtra after their slum homes were torn down.

The offer on Saturday came days after a private trust said it was replacing the demolished shantytown dwellings of nine-year-old Rubina Ali and 11-year-old Azharuddin Ismail.

The flats offered by the Congress party in the western part of Mumbai cost around 400,000 rupees each (8,500 dollars) and were earmarked for low-income families.

The move to house the youngsters comes amid huge publicity over the demolition of their houses in a drive earlier in the month by Mumbai civic authorities to get rid of illegal shanty dwellings.

"The chief minister has approved flats in the names of Rubina Ali and Azharuddin Ismail," said Gautam Chatterjee, vice president of the Maharashtra Housing Area Development Authority, which built the apartments.

"The Mumbai Regional Congress Committee has agreed to pay the price of the flats," he added.

Amarjit Singh Manhas, a treasurer with the Mumbai Congress committee, told The Times of India that the flats were the children's reward "for doing the country proud by their role in the film."

The team behind the hit film has said they will provide for the pair and set up a trust fund for them until they are 18. The children currently receive a undisclosed monthly stipend and attend an English-medium school.

"Slumdog" director Danny Boyle and producer Christian Colson, who set up the trust for youngsters, said earlier this week the trust for the children had bought a flat for Ismail and was finalising the purchase of one for Ali.

Last month, the film's producers donated 500,000 pounds (755,000 dollars) to a charity dedicated to helping slum children in Mumbai where the film was based.

Chatterjee said the children's parents have 15 days to decide whether to accept the offer of state housing.

More than half of Mumbai's estimated 18 million residents live in either designated slums or in illegal shantytowns.

Ali played the younger Latika, the key female character in the hit film, and co-star Ismail played the elder brother of the film's central character, Jamal.

"Slumdog Millionaire," a feel-good drama about a Mumbai tea boy who rises from poverty and enters a television quiz show to win millions and find the love of his life, won eight Oscars.




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