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True underdog stories

A year after Slumdog Millionare picked up eight Oscars, four of its child stars — Azharuddin Ismail, Rubina Ali, Ayush Khedekar and Ashutosh Lobo — recall their red carpet moment and say that life has taken turn for the better ever since.

entertainment Updated: Mar 09, 2010 01:30 IST
Serena Menon

Azharuddin Ismail, 11

‘I want to be like Salman Khan’

Around this time last year, Ismail, who played the role of the youngest Salim in Slumdog Millionaire, returned from the Oscars to be greeted by an avalanche of cameras. He recalls, “Bahut mazaa aaya. It was wonderful being up on stage with Danny uncle (director Danny Boyle).”

Life, now, is drastically different though. “I have started going to school regularly and I now can speak English,” beams the 11-year-old, as he says in fluent English, “Hello, how are you? I am fine. This house is nice, too.” He now lives with his mother, Shamim Sheikh, and is the family’s sole earning member. They have shifted to a new apartment near Santa Cruz from Garib Nagar slum.

Azhar wants to grow up to be like actor Salman Khan. But he wants to complete his education first. The only film he’s signed is Lord Owen’s Lady.

Rubina Ali, 10

‘I haven’t had a sad moment in the last year’

Ali’s return from the Oscars came with its share of drama. First there was the fight between her biological mother, Khursheed, and her stepmother, Munni, to claim ‘their’ daughter. Then there were reports of her father allegedly selling her off to a Dubai-based businessman.

Even now, Rubina, the youngest Latika of Slumdog..., continues to live in her Garib Nagar slum. The star kid hasn’t got the promised house still. “But it’s alright. I don’t think I’ve had even one sad moment in 2009,” she smiles.

Ali, who walked the runway with Azhar in Jaipur last year, also has an autobiography, Slumdog Dreaming, which has reportedly earned her over £50,000 as royalty from its sales.

Ashutosh Lobo, 16

‘I had decided to become an actor in Hollywood’

Ashutosh Lobo, who played the adolescent Salim Malik, can’t believe that a year ago he was at the hottest party in the world. “It’s shocking to realise that so much time has passed, it still feels like yesterday,” says Lobo, who is gearing up for his second acting stint in Lord Owen’s Lady.

According to his father, as a nine-year-old, Ashutosh would claim that he’ll become an actor in Hollywood. “People laughed at my Hindi, so I decided to act in Hollywood,” he says.

Lobo’s now busy partaking in extra-curricular activities at Jai Hind College. “Now I know that an actor’s life is not all fun and games,” he says. “In a romantic scene, there are 40 crew members staring at you. It can get unnerving when you’re trying to create chemistry there.”

Ayush Khedekar, 10

‘I got to dance with Hrithik’

Ayush Khedekar was perhaps the only kid in the film who had lived in a cemented house before the film became a phenomenon. In the year since, when he wasn’t being felicitated with his co-actors or walking the ramp, the movie’s young Jamaal was promoting brands.

“I got to dance with my favourite actor, Hrithik Roshan, in an ad too,” he says. “I can’t believe I’ve become so famous because of this one film. Everyone wants to play with me in school.”

Ayush’s father, Mahesh Khedekar, makes sure that his son, who is now in the fourth standard, remains down-to-earth. Mahesh, however, admits that when they go out, people recognise him. “I want to become an actor…and a scientist, too!” the boy says.