‘We want flats, not money’ | india | Hindustan Times
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‘We want flats, not money’

Snubbing allegations of the film selling poverty porn, Rafi is happy that the film gave a “realistic” depiction of slums. He is glad that Rubina now goes to an English-medium school, reports Naomi Canton.

india Updated: Jan 25, 2009 23:57 IST
Naomi Canton

“Look! Look!” says an excited Rubina Ali (8) sitting on the floor of her hut showing off a newspaper cutting of her standing next to actress Preity Zinta.

“I’d like to be an actress and help the poor because I know what it’s like,” says the actor, who impressed critics as young Latika in Slumdog Millionaire, which bagged Oscar nominations in 10 categories.

Rubina is starry-eyed, but her father Rafi Khurishi (45) is worried. A year ago, he fractured his leg and has been at home since. He used to earn Rs 3,500 a month by building illegal huts, like the one they live in at Garib Nagar on railway land along the tracks in Bandra (East).

The Rs 35,000 his daughter got for the film has already been spent on his medical treatment. “We wish they had given us a house,” he says. “For a year she was working on the film, they should have given at least Rs 5 lakh.” Rubina’s stepmother Muni Khurishi (28), who used to work as a cook, too is currently unemployed.

Snubbing allegations of the film selling poverty porn, Rafi is happy that the film gave a “realistic” depiction of slums. He is glad that Rubina now goes to an English-medium school.

“They promised to create a deposit account for her. We don’t know how much money is in the account,” he says, adding that the producers have been giving Rs 1,500 per month for her books and food. “We would like an apartment and a better lifestyle.”

The same story is narrated at a nearby slum by the father of Azharuddin Ismail (8), who played young Salim in the film.

Smoking a bidi outside his hut in a makeshift slum in Garib Nagar Park, Mohammed Ismail (65) said: “We want a house, not money.” The father of four earns around Rs 100 a day selling wood salvaged from dumps, and the family lives in a temporary hut made of plastic sheets on government land.

“Azharuddin was paid Rs 1.3 lakh, but in instalments. We spent all the money on food,” he says, shifting a brick to hold his house up. “We were promised more money but never got it.”

“My son is a star and his film has got Oscar nominations, so why am I living like this?” asks Azharuddin’s mother Shaim (45), a housewife. “The film has won many awards, we deserve a better lifestyle.”

Adds Azharuddin: “I want to be Salman Khan. I don’t want to live in a hut.”