The makers of Oscar-nominated hit film Slumdog Millionaire have said the welfare of child actors from the slums of Mumbai has always been a top priority for everyone involved with the movie.
Reacting to some media criticism of the way Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, Ayush Mahesh Khedekar and Rubina Qureshi, who played the three main characters as children, had been treated, a Fox Searchlight spokesman said: "The welfare of Azhar and Rubina has always been a top priority for everyone involved with 'Slumdog Millionaire'."
"A plan has been in place for over 12 months to ensure that their experience working on 'Slumdog Millionaire' would be of long term benefit. For 30 days work, the children were paid three times the average local annual adult salary," he said.
"Last year, after completing filming, they were enrolled in school for the first time and a fund was established for their future welfare, which they will receive if they are still in school when they turn 18.
"Due to the exposure and potential jeopardy created by the unwarranted press attention, we are looking into additional measures to protect Azhar and Rubina and their families. We are extremely proud of this film, and proud of the way our child actors have been treated," the spokesman said.
The film's British Director Danny Boyle and the film's producer Christian Colson too have defended their arrangements for the children.
In a written statement, they said they had "paid painstaking and considered attention to how Azhar and Rubina's involvement in the film could be of lasting benefit to them over and above the payment they received for their work.
"The children had never attended school, and in consultation with their parents we agreed that this would be our priority. Since June 2008 and at our expense, both kids have been attending school and they are flourishing under the tutelage of their dedicated and committed teachers.
"Financial resources have been made available for their education until they are 18. We were delighted to see them progressing well when we visited their school and met their teachers last week," the statement said.
A "substantial lump sum" would be paid to the children on completion of their studies, it added.