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'Slumdog' kids perform on Hong Kong TV, at mall

world Updated: Jun 07, 2009 15:07 IST
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The Indian child stars of the Oscar-winning "Slumdog Millionaire" wowed Hong Kong with a taste of Bollywood over the weekend, performing a dance number on live TV that raised more than $100,000 for charity and singing to cheering fans at a shopping mall.

Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail and Rubina Ali danced to the movie's hit song "Jai Ho" at a fundraising TV show late Saturday, sometimes moving out of synch with the adult dancers, but they were warmly applauded.

Presenters announced after the performance that one donor phoned in a contribution of 830,000 Hong Kong dollars ($107,000) to The Community Chest charity during the dance number.

On Sunday, the two 10-year-olds and 9-year old staged a similar dance number and sang "Jai Ho" _ or "Victory to You" _ at a shopping mall to an audience of hundreds, including those who peered over railings from higher floors. They sang off-key but drew an enthusiastic response. The trio later signed autographs. Ayush and Azhar said in a brief question-and-answer session Sunday they wanted to continue their acting careers. Ayush named Indian film star Hrithik Roshan and Brad Pitt as his favorite actors, saying he picked Pitt "because he's very cute and he's a very nice actor."

Rubina said she preferred Pitt's partner, Angelina Jolie. "Slumdog Millionaire" is about an orphan from Mumbai's shantytowns who wins the Indian version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." British director Danny Boyle cast real-life slum residents Azhar and Rubina in the film. Ayush did not grow up in the slums.

Some critics have accused the filmmakers of exploiting Azhar and Rubina, and efforts to improve their living conditions have been complicated by their families' changing demands and neighbors' jealousy.

Fearing a lump-sum payment would be squandered, the filmmakers set up a trust fund for the two children. They also donated $747,500 to a charity devoted to improving the lives of Mumbai street children. The two children's shanties were razed as part of a city slum-clearing campaign, but the filmmakers and Indian government officials have promised them new homes.

Rubina has secured a book deal with Britain's Transworld Publishers, announcing on Friday that it will publish her life story in mid-July. Terms of the deal weren't revealed.

Community Chest publicist Louie Tong said the charity is covering the children's travel expenses and lodging at a luxury hotel, but it is only paying them a small honorarium. She would not reveal the amount.

"Slumdog Millionaire" won Oscars for best picture and best director, among others, and made more than $350 million worldwide.