Indian slum kids’ fairytale experience at Oscars

February 23rd, 2009 - 3:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Slumdog MillionaireLos Angeles, Feb 23 (IANS) Starry-eyed, excited and wearing little tuxedos and dresses for the first time, a motley of Indian slum kids from Academy award winning “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Smile Pinki” walked the Oscar red carpet with panache despite the stark contrast between their everyday living and the glitzy event.
It was a fairytale experience for nine-year-old Rubina Ali and 10-year-old Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, who starred in Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire”. Another kid who charmed the jury and audiences with her special smile was Pinki Sonkar, the protagonist of “Smile Pinki” - a 39-minute documentary about a poor village girl afflicted by a cleft lip.

Within days of wearing rags and staying in slums, these kids managed to join Hollywood’s A-listers at the Oscar ceremony in all their finery here Sunday night.

While Azharuddin walked hand in hand with Rubina without a trace of nervousness, Pinki, who hails from a small village in Uttar Pradesh, confidently smiled away, looking cute in a red dress and sporting two ponytails.

Said Rubina, who starred as the young Latika in “Slumdog…”: “We woke up very early today.”

Ismail, who essayed the role of young Salim, the protagonist’s brother, was also thrilled with the dream-come-true Oscar experience.

“All of them (the film crew) love us a lot. They never leave us alone. I am so happy. I want to thank them all, especially Danny uncle,” the boy said to reporters.

Both Rubina and Azharuddin now want to become actors even though they might continue to live in their makeshift homes in a Mumbai slum.

Azharuddin’s parents, Ismail and Shamim Shaikh, manage to eke out a living from their furniture trade. There is barely enough for a decent meal a day,their neighbour Yakub Abdul Sheikh in Mumbai had told IANS two days ago.

Child actor Tanay Chheda, who was also seen in Aamir Khan’s “Taare Zameen Par” and played the teenage Jamal Malik, the protagonist in “Slumdog Millionaire”, also joined the crew on the stage.

“Winning eight Oscars is amazing. We all are excited and it is an amazing feeling. It is unbelievable that we have won so many Oscars,” Chheda said.

Pinki, the charming eight-year-old, came in for praise from American filmmaker Megan Mylan who won the best short documentary Oscar for her movie “Smile Pinki”, a heartwarming tale of a poor Indian village girl whose cleft lip made her a social outcast.

“Thank you Pinki … Thank you for letting me tell your incredible sty,” Megan had said in her acceptance speech.

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