Young Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, Ayush Mahesh Khedekar and Rubina Qureshi are the real-life slum kids who have endeared themselves to audiences worldwide with their performances in Oscar-nominated Slumdog Millionaire. The film's roaring success hasn't made a big difference in their lives, but they already have stardust in their eyes.
The three children live within a kilometre of one another in the shanty town of Bharat Nagar in East Bandra spreading across to Kurla West in central Mumbai and live largely impoversished lives. But they all nurture big dreams.
Ten-year-old Azhar, who played young Salim in British filmmaker Danny Boyle's film, wants to make a mark in films one day.
"Mehnat karne se sub kuch hota hai" (Anything is possible if one works hard)," Azhar told IANS.
His father Mohammed Ismail, however, wishes to see his son become a graduate and get himself a decent job.
"I want my son to be a graduate so that he can get himself a better job and no longer live amidst the squalor here," said Ismail, who lives in a shack in the area.
The families of Rubina and Ayush are equally poverty-stricken. It seems as though Boyle transposed their lives on to the screen and all they had to do was behave as they normally do in their everyday lives.
And their debut with Slumdog Millionaire is comparable to the rags-to-riches story weaved around a game show in the film.
Rubina, who played young Latika in the film, wants to concentrate on her studies right now but does not rule out trying her luck in tinsel town.
"Pahle padungi, baad mein phir mouka mile to film mein bhi kam kadungi" (I will first study and then, if the opportunity arises again, will also work in films)," the little girl told IANS with wisdom belying her years.
Does she have any idea what acting is all about?
"Maloom nahin" (I have no idea)," she replied.
Despite media reports that the children were underpaid, Rubina doesn't feel she was expolited and is all praise for the makers of the film, especially Lavleen Tandon, the film's casting director and associate director.
"Aunty (Lavleen) bahut pyari hai (she is very affectionate)," she said.
The gem of the lot, of course, is Ayush, seen as young Jamaal. The boy is mischievous and dodges all questions put to him. What he loved the most was being taken to the J.W. Mariott Hotel in Mumbai to meet the media and seeing himself on television.
But he wasn't too happy with his appearance in Slumdog....
"Film mein hum achcha kapda nahin pahente the" (I was not wearing nice clothes in the film).
Image conscious already?
The film, which also stars Anil Kapoor, Freida Pinto and Dev Patel in lead roles, has triumphed at the Golden Globe Awards and won top prizes from the Screen Actors Guild and the Producers Guild of America.