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'Slumdog' kids could lose money

October 30, 2009|Associated Press

MUMBAI, INDIA — Two child stars of "Slumdog Millionaire" are at risk of losing their monthly stipend and their trust fund if they don't at- tend school more regularly, a trustee for the fund said Thursday.

Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, 11, and Rubina Ali, 10, shot to fame after starring in the Oscar-winning movie.

But these days, Azhar is showing up at school only 37% of the time, and Rubina has only a 27% attendance rate, the trustee said.

"It's pathetic," said Noshir Dadrawala, who helps administer the Jai Ho trust established by the filmmakers to provide an education, living allowance and housing for the young stars, who both grew up in Mumbai's real-life shantytowns.

Azhar played hero Jamal's brother, Salim, while Rubina was cast as the young Latika, who grows up to become Jamal's love interest.

Dadrawala blamed the children's busy schedules for their chronic truancy.

"They are constantly going to Paris and Cochin and Chennai," he said. "That's fine, but go over the weekend, not at the sacrifice of school."

The children's parents said the absences were because of deaths in the family and other problems and promised to get them to school from now on.

"Slumdog" director Danny Boyle and producer Christian Colson said in a statement that the children's families "need to honor their part of the bargain."

Dadrawala said the trust decided that if the children do not get their attendance above 70% they will lose their monthly stipend of about $120. If they fail to graduate, they will forfeit a lump sum payment set aside by the filmmakers to help the children, who grew up in one of Mumbai's more wretched slums, get a start in life.

The filmmakers have declined to reveal the amount in the trust.

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