A year after Slumdog Millionare picked up eight Oscars at the 81st Academy Awards, four of its child wonders — Azharuddin Ismail, Rubina Ali, Ayush Khedekar and Ashutosh Lobo — recall their red carpet moment and agree that life, indeed, has taken a 360 degree turn since. Interestingly, all of them will soon be seen again in a British film, called Lord Owen’s Lady, due for release in 2011.
‘I’d decided to be a Hollywood actor’
Ashutosh Lobo, who played the adolescent Salim Malik, can’t believe that a year ago he was at the hottest party in the world; walking the red carpet at the Oscars. “It’s shocking to suddenly realise that so much time has passed, it still feels so recent,” says Lobo, who is gearing up for his second acting stint in Lord Owen’s Lady.
According to his father, as a nine-year-old, Ashutosh would make tall claims about becoming an actor in Hollywood. “People laughed at my Hindi, so I decided that I would act in Hollywood,” he grins, confirming his father’s story.
Now 16, he’s been busy with all the possible extra-curricular activities in Jai Hind College, in preparation for his time in the spotlight. “People think an actor’s life is all fun and games. But now I know, it isn’t. Whenever I watch any movie, I can’t help, but think of all that’s going on behind the scenes,” he points out.
“In a romantic scene, there are 40 crew members staring at you, and that can get pretty unnerving when you’re trying to create chemistry there. Every kid dreams of becoming an actor, I now know that it’s not a dream run. But I still want to go after it.”
- Ashutosh Lobo, 16
‘I want to grow up to be like Salman Khan’
Around this time last year, Azharuddin Ismail returned from the Oscars to be greeted by an avalanche of cameras. He still reiterates what he had said then: “Bahut mazaa aaya (It was so much fun). It was wonderful being up on stage with Danny uncle (director Danny Boyle) and the others, with everyone applauding us!”
Life, now, is drastically different though. “I have started going to school regularly and I now can speak English,” beams the 11-year-old, as he says in fluent English, “Hello, how are you? I am fine. This house is nice too.” His father, Mohammed Ismail, who was suffering from tuberculosis, passed away in September 2009.
He now, lives with his mother, Shamim Sheikh, and is the sole earning member of the family. They have shifted to his new pakka (permanent) apartment near Milan Mall, Santa Cruz from Garib Nagar slum. The house has been provided by the Jai Ho trust, which was set up by Danny Boyle after the success of the film.
Azhar, who played the role of the youngest Salim in Slumdog Millionaire, wants to grow up to be like Salman Khan some day. But he has decided to complete his education first, before making a career in acting. The only film he has signed so far is ‘Lord Owen’s Lady’ with Rubina Ali, Ayush Khedekar and Ashutosh Lobo.
- Azharuddin Ismail, 11
‘I haven’t had a sad moment in the last year’
Ten-year-old Rubina Ali’s return from the Oscars came with its own share of drama. First, there was the fight between her biological mother, Khursheed, and her stepmother, Munni, for their ‘Amreeca’ return daughter. Then there were rumours about her father allegedly selling her off to some Dubai based businessmen.
Well, Rubina is still where she is, and continues to burn the midnight oil in her Garib Nagar slum. Between the MHADA and Jai Ho Trust squabble over getting the star kid a house, she got nothing. “The trust had set a budget of Rs 25 lakh. We found an apartment, but they took too long to finalise it. By the time they came through, the price had been upped to Rs 35 lakh,” says Dinesh Dubey, her agent.
Rubina, who was getting ready for school, adds that her father is still trying to work things out with the trust. “But, it’s alright. I don’t think I’ve had even one sad moment in the last year,” she smiles.
The young actor, who walked the ramp in Jaipur with Azhar last year, was thrilled to meet singer Daler Mehendi at the event. “He sang and danced for us, ek dum mast (totally cool),” giggles the youngest Latika of Slumdog Millionaire.
The other high point of her life, so far, was her autobiography, Slumdog Dreaming, that has reportedly earned her over £50,000 as royalty, from its sales. The money has been transferred to the young actress’ account. Like her co-actors, she too wants to become an actress once she “grows up” but for now, is concentrating on her studies.
- Rubina Ali, 10
‘I got to dance with Hrithik Roshan’
Ayush Khedekar was perhaps the only kid in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire who had lived in a cemented house before the film became a phenomenon. In the year since, when he wasn’t being felicitated with his co-actors or walking the ramp, the movie’s young Jamaal has been promoting brands like Britannia, Choco Treat, Tide and Reliance Mobile.
“I got to dance with my favourite actor, Hrithik Roshan, in an ad too,” the 10-year-old informs excitedly. “I can’t believe I’ve become so famous because of this one film. Everyone wants to play with me in school.”
Ayush’s father, Mahesh Khedekar, makes sure that his son, who is now in the fourth standard, remains down-to-earth. Mahesh Khedekar, who works with a central government firm, however admits that when they go for walks around Bhayander, people point at Ayush, saying, “Look, that’s the Slumdog kid.”
Does Ayush still want to become an actor? The answer comes in a flash: “Yes, I want to become an actor… and a scientist too!”
- Ayush Khedekar, 10
Slumdog Millionaire’s li’l stars will start shooting for Lord Owen’s Lady in September in Dubai, London and Simla. They will each be paid around £1000 per day. The shoot is expected to continue over 15 to 20 days. Directed by Mark Weatherbe, Lord Owen’s Lady has been produced by David Cherill and Sunil Manchanda.
It will star Anthony Hopkins along with the Slumdog Millionaire kid stars Rubina Ali, Azhar Ismail, Ayush Khedekar and Ashutosh Lobo. A drama, it revolves around a Welsh nobleman, who falls in love with an Indian girl. It is due for release in 2011.
British television actor who got a lot of critical acclaim for his role as Jamaal in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, auditioned for M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender in 2008, the filming for which began in 2009.
The actor who played Latika, the protagonist’s love interest in Slumdog Millionaire, signed the Woody Allen film, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, in 2009. She will also play the role of Miral, in Julian Schnabel’s film by the same name.
The comedy, romantic film will also star Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Banderas, among others. She is also currently the International brand ambassador for L’oreal.