Apart from earning themselves a house and some money, Slumdog Millionaire child artistes — Rubina Qureshi and Azharuddin Ismail — added the glam quotient to Garibnagar slum, where they once lived, in a way that no one from the impoverished neighbourhood would have expected.
And amidst the media blitzkrieg, no one for a minute looked around to see that there were four other kids from the same area, who had also made their big screen debut, a year later. Salman Khan, 16, Fayyaz Ahmed, 13, Jaffar Hussain, 11, and Almas Khan, 12, acted in the film, Thanks Maa, which released earlier this year. And after the Slumdog frenzy, one would have expected their lives to change too. But has it?
"No. We didn’t have any such expectations. We don’t want anything from anyone. We will work hard, study and earn our livelihood,” said Salmaan, the oldest of the lot, who recently dropped out of school for personal reasons. The child artistes worked 16 hours a day during Ramzan and were paid around Rs 25,000 for the film. After making it through multiple rounds of auditions for the role, they proudly boast of how Almas was picked for the role of Sursuri while Rubina was rejected. “I think they liked my work better. They agreed to give Rubina a second chance, but she never came back,” said Almas.
When asked about their experience of acting in the film, the young artistes smiled before exchanging reassuring looks with one another. “The four of us are uneducated. So we couldn’t even read the script,” revealed Salmaan. “So the director helped us to memorise the dialogue by repeating them verbally. Fayyaz, Jaffar and Almas were slow in
picking up the dialogue, so I had to help them. I was put in charge of them.”
With no expectations of a call from someone who will promise them a house, they live on happily in their makeshift shanties next to the Bandra east railway station. “He has been acting from the time he was two months old, in small odd roles. We never expected anything. I’m proud of my son,” said Saiyad Ahmed, Fayyaz’s father, who beamed as his son narrated his achievements. Fayyaz has done small roles in seven or eight films, including one in Kiran Rao’s Dhobhi Ghaat with Jaffar.
Directed by Irfan Kamal, Thanks Maa revolves around an orphan, called Municipality, played by Shams, the fifth child actor. He comes across a baby at a railway station, who has been deserted by her mother. He takes it upon himself to reunite the two. The four kids from Garibnagar play pivotal roles in Municipality’s journey.
RAGS TO RICHES
Apart from acquiring a house, Danny Boyle’s Oscar winning film, Slumdog Millionaire’s child stars — Rubina Qureshi and Azharuddin Ismail, got a life. After becoming the popular cause of the city, they bagged ramp shows and were invited to special events. Rubina earned royalty from the sales of her autobiography and Azhar goes to an English medium school now.
Thanks Maa team
Almas Khan (12)
A shy and quiet Almas is still making up her mind about becoming an actress when she grows up. “I go to school every day without fail,” is all she says.
Salmaan Khan (16)
The oldest of the group of four, Salmaan is proud of his name. “Meri kya galti hain isme? (How is this my fault?),” said the 16-year-old, who recently dropped out of school, but keeps the younger ones in control. “They have to go to school, I’ll make sure they do.”
Fayyaz Ahmed (13)
“Acting comes easily to me. For Thanks Maa, they trained us for many months. We had to be serious all the time, though Jaffar and I were
mischievous and pulled stunts on everyone around,” said Fayyaz, who will be seen next in Kiran Rao’s Dhobhi Ghaat. “I have acted in many films. But I will concentrate on my studies now and take up acting again when I grow up.”
Jaffar Hussain (11)
He dropped out of school
during the shooting of Thanks Maa, but resumed his studies as soon as the shoot was over. The youngest in the group, he didn’t have much to say about his experience. “Azhar is my friend and so is Rubina,” said Hussain.