Slumdog Producers to Buy New Homes for Homeless Child Stars

As we wrote here, the child stars of Slumdog Millionaire had their homes demolished by the Indian Government over the past month. The producers had established a trust for them, and announced today that both children will soon be in their own family homes which the Government will not be able to take away from them. The New York Times report is here. [More...]

On Wednesday the director Danny Boyle and Christian Colson, a producer of the Academy Award-winning film, met with the parents of the actors Rubina Ali Qureshi, 9, and Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, 10

Reuters reported that Mr. Boyle said the filmmakers had purchased a new home for Azharuddin and would soon buy one for Rubina. But Rafiq Qureshi, Rubina’s father, said their efforts fell short. “Everything is available in Mumbai if you have the money,” Mr. Qureshi said, according to The A.P. “If you really want to get us a house, you can get us a house in two days.”

From the LA Times:

Nirja Mattoo, who helps oversee the children's trust, said a new home has been found for Azhar's family near to his school and neighborhood. "We are finalizing the deal. Next week it should be done," she said. The hunt for Rubina's house continues, she added.

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    What we should remember.... (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Dadler on Thu May 28, 2009 at 09:43:25 AM EST
    ...is that doing this requires absolutely NO sacrifice whatsoever on the part of the filmmakers.  None.  This is simple right and wrong, and it should not have taken this long at all.  If you are going to use these children whom you KNOW are already dirt poor and exploited enough, then you go far beyond the normal course of recompense to insure a fair result.  Sad it got to this point.

    they were squatter shantys (none / 0) (#2)
    by Jeralyn on Thu May 28, 2009 at 02:43:47 AM EST
    Not allowed to exist on the land they plopped them down on. (What I read.) In other words, the families were trespassing.

    You are correct (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by star on Thu May 28, 2009 at 08:39:09 AM EST
    These are slums and houses are makeshift sort which is built in a weeks time . This sort of thing happens in major cities of India often . The corporation usually gives ample warning (most cases 4- 6 months)before demolition , which is routinly ignored till the last minute when bull dozers arrive (accompanied by TV crews).
    Most of these people rebuild in the same vicinity again and manage to live there till next round of demolitions.
    It is sad - espescially for children..

    It is creepy that these children did not (5.00 / 2) (#6)
    by inclusiveheart on Thu May 28, 2009 at 09:15:54 AM EST
    profit enough from this extremely profitable film to actually not be squatting at this late point in the game of the film's success.

    Even a fractional point on that film's earnings for the kids in it would have set them up for life in a place like India.  Seems odd to me that the producers didn't figure that one out at the start and make it happen - given the storyline anyway.


    I believe (none / 0) (#7)
    by ColumbiaDuck on Thu May 28, 2009 at 09:19:14 AM EST
    the producers set up trusts for the children for their education and accessible by them when they become adults.  As for why they didn't just get a fat paycheck, I'd have to check, but I think there was some concern that the parents would take the money and the kids would end up with nothing.  Not going to say whether this rationale is reasonable or anything, just what I recall.

    Still seems silly to me (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by Militarytracy on Thu May 28, 2009 at 09:25:44 AM EST
    Having a trust waiting for the adult who may not survive childhood in the slums.

    That's hardly the standard in Hollywood (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Inspector Gadget on Thu May 28, 2009 at 09:35:08 AM EST
    Child actors become rich children.

    Yeah (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by ColumbiaDuck on Thu May 28, 2009 at 09:38:55 AM EST
    And in Hollywood, there have definitely been cases where those child stars sought to become emancipated because a parent is spending all their money.

    Comparing India to Hollywood is (5.00 / 2) (#19)
    by inclusiveheart on Thu May 28, 2009 at 10:46:59 AM EST
    a stretch.  California has very strict child labor laws mostly geared towards child actors.  It is an apples to oranges comparison and child labor in India is delt with very differently than it is in the US.

    My basic point was that the producers could have given each of the kids a fractional point on the film's earnings that could have enabled them - if the film was successful - and now we know it was - to be housed, fed and clothed properly - without having to revisit this issue this late in the game.

    When people start out making a film like this one, they don't normally think it is going to be a blockbuster global success.  And that is why points rather than large salaries are often given to players and other participants.  Given the subject of the film, I would have put in a profit-sharing clause just to avoid looking like I had exploited cheap talent from the slums - just in case the film started making some real money.


    20-20 hindsight. (none / 0) (#20)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu May 28, 2009 at 11:26:44 AM EST
    No - I don't think so. (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by inclusiveheart on Thu May 28, 2009 at 11:39:22 AM EST
    At the very least, from the moment they were nominated for the Oscars someone should have been making sure that those kids were living in decent acommodations.  Really, as much for the moral aspect as for the business side of the film itself.  Nothing like a feel bad reality story to undermine the long-term success of a feel good fictional story.

    I do think so. (none / 0) (#22)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu May 28, 2009 at 12:03:02 PM EST
    If you read through the comments on TL's original posting on this subject (linked by TL above) you'll find that merely giving the kids - or the kids' families - money is essentially guaranteeing that they will quickly loose that money, by hook or by crook.

    They simply are not equipped to handle that kind of money.

    The producers are trying to figure out how to help the kids in a permanent fashion.

    I think it's laudable.


    Housing them is not simply giving (none / 0) (#23)
    by inclusiveheart on Thu May 28, 2009 at 01:14:57 PM EST
    them money.  Housing, feeding and clothing them properly is as important as educating them.  I am not talking about handing anyone wads of lump sum money.

    Sorry, when you talk about (none / 0) (#24)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu May 28, 2009 at 01:31:25 PM EST
    "points" and "profit-sharing" they essentially equal "wads of lump sum money" to these families.

    They simply are not equipped to handle unusual - for them - sums of money. Or even to own unusual - for them - assets (like an apartment).

    Now, after the film has literally hit the completely unforeseen 1-in-a-million lottery jackpot, the producers seem to be thoughtfully and carefully attempting to provide long term assistance to these families with the goal that they will ultimately have the skills necessary to live a better* life.

    Again, I think that's laudable.

    *Better by our standards.


    They are getting some sort of trust (none / 0) (#25)
    by inclusiveheart on Thu May 28, 2009 at 01:36:40 PM EST
    but no one knows what the terms of the trust are; and up until the government bulldozed their houses they were living in shanties as squatters.  To me that means that the trust isn't working very well for them.  The reason I brought up points was that at the outset of making the film, there was likely no guarantee in their minds that the film would even break even much less become an international sensation.  In the event that it did make money, assuming they probably paid these kids only a small stipend for their participation in the first place, points would have made sense to factor in - just in case.  That was why I was talking about the points.  And just because they share in the profits, doesn't have anything to do with how that proft sharing is structured in terms of payment over time.  That's a separate issue and it makes sense that they've created a trust - but it makes no sense that that trust did not provide decent housing on something other than squatter's land in slums for these kids.  See what I'm saying?

    Sorry, I think you want to be critical (none / 0) (#26)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu May 28, 2009 at 01:49:37 PM EST
    of a situation that does not deserve it.
    In their statement, Boyle and Colson said the production took special care to look after the children's welfare, paying for their elementary and secondary schooling (neither child had been educated before) since last June, covering their basic living costs (including health care and emergencies) and establishing "a substantial lump sum" payment for college tuition that will be distributed to the young boy and girl "when they complete their studies."

    Distributors Fox Searchlight and its India counterpart, Fox Star Studios, along with "Slumdog Millionaire" sales agent Pathé International said in a separate statement, "The welfare of Azhar and Rubina has always been a top priority for everyone involved in 'Slumdog Millionaire.' . . . For 30 days' work, the children were paid three times the average local adult salary. . . . We are extremely proud of this film, and proud of the way our child actors have been treated."

    Couple of problems (none / 0) (#27)
    by ColumbiaDuck on Thu May 28, 2009 at 02:01:48 PM EST
    It seems like there are contradictions in the news reports as to when and how the families were offered housing.  I have seen reports that they were offered housing but didn't want to move away from their neighborhood.  There is also some indication that the parents wanted the money up front.

    As for points - that would have been a very unusual situation.  Even movie stars rarely get points on the backend:  that's usually reserved for producers, directors and folks of the Tom Cruise status.  I've never heard of a non-star getting points.


    Good points, (none / 0) (#28)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu May 28, 2009 at 02:21:38 PM EST
    about both the difficulties in helping these families live a "better" life, and about "points."

    To my mind, SAG/AFTRA/WGA etc., residual payments can be viewed as in the same family as "points" or "profit sharing," and of course anyone who works under these types of union contracts get resids.

    Although I don't believe India has a union that would cover the kids, I suppose the producers could have tried to put these kids under a payment plan that would be similar to a union contract from the get-go, but in reality all that would have done is ensured they'd get "lumps" of money that their parents would control, and would likely have quickly been disappeared...


    Sure (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by ColumbiaDuck on Thu May 28, 2009 at 09:36:34 AM EST
    But if the kids don't see the money either way....  

    Found an article with more details on the money situation.


    a trust is fine (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by Bemused on Thu May 28, 2009 at 09:49:13 AM EST
     but why not appoint an  responsible independent  trustee empowered to provide needed funds from the corpus  to the children during their minority and prudently safeguarding and investing the undistributed amounts. This  could serve the dual purpose of improving their lives now and protecting them from manipulation or exploitation by allegedly untrustworthy relatives or others, so that there is substantial principal avauilable for them when they become adults.

      Trusts can be structured to accomplish that rather easily-- if the trusts were in fact established with a substantial sum of money by the producers and are not merely holding  annuities or some similar instrument which required the movie folks to part with little of their riches.


    Sometimes you get a happy ending (none / 0) (#3)
    by Militarytracy on Thu May 28, 2009 at 08:18:11 AM EST

    For the two kids... (none / 0) (#15)
    by kdog on Thu May 28, 2009 at 09:54:05 AM EST
    that won the lottery by being cast in the film, yeah.

    The rest of the displaced, nothing happy about it.


    I always have to view such things (none / 0) (#32)
    by Militarytracy on Sat May 30, 2009 at 07:28:18 AM EST
    as winning the war on poverty one kid at a time. That's about the best I can offer myself until more are willing to fight for social reform and changes that will give all of our kids some sort of consistent quality of life.  Makes me so friggin frustrated I grit my teeth too right now. How about universal healthcare to close up all those cracks our kids fall through in America Mr Obama?

    Garbage and more garbage (none / 0) (#5)
    by Jacob Freeze on Thu May 28, 2009 at 09:06:51 AM EST
    Now that producers of the garbage-movie "Slumdog Millionaire" have finally won a round in the ongoing public-relations battle to promote video sales of their stinking movie, and we can totally forget (as if we hadn't already forgotten) about the tens of thousands of children who get sold into silk factories at age 6...

    Let's celebrate this PR victory with a nice bag of popcorn!

    But while PR hacks squeeze maximum publicity out of the bargain-bungalows that they finally bought for their homeless "stars," maybe it's also worthwhile to hear what the greatest living Indian writer has to say about this crap.

    In the case of Slumdog, India's greatest contribution, certainly our political parties' greatest contribution is providing an authentic, magnificent backdrop of epic poverty, brutality and violence for an Oscar-winning film to be shot in. So now that too has become an achievement? Something to be celebrated? Something for us all to feel good about? Honestly, it's beyond farce.

    And here's the rub: Slumdog Millionaire allows real-life villains to take credit for its cinematic achievements because it lets them off the hook. It points no fingers, it holds nobody responsible. Everyone can feel good.

    Slumdog Millionaire does not puncture the myth of `India shining'-- far from it. It just turns India `not-shining' into another glitzy item in the supermarket. As a film, it has none of the panache, the politics, the texture, the humour, and the confidence that both the director and the writer bring to their other work. It really doesn't deserve the passion and attention we are lavishing on it. It's a silly screenplay and the dialogue was embarrassing, which surprised me because I loved The Full Monty (written by the same script writer). The stockpiling of standard, clichéd, horrors in Slumdog are, I think, meant to be a sort of version of Alice in Wonderland - `Jamal in Horrorland'. It doesn't work except to trivialize what really goes on here. The villains who kidnap and maim children and sell them into brothels reminded me of Glenn Close in 101 Dalmatians.

    Politically, the film de-contextualises poverty - by making poverty an epic prop, it disassociates poverty from the poor. It makes India's poverty a landscape, like a desert or a mountain range, an exotic beach, god-given, not man-made. So while the camera swoops around in it lovingly, the filmmakers are more picky about the creatures that inhabit this landscape.

    To have cast a poor man and a poor girl, who looked remotely as though they had grown up in the slums, battered, malnutritioned, marked by what they'd been through, wouldn't have been attractive enough. So they cast an Indian model and a British boy. The torture scene in the cop station was insulting. The cultural confidence emanating from the obviously British 'slumdog' completely cowed the obviously Indian cop, even though the cop was supposedly torturing the slumdog. The brown skin that two share is too thin to hide a lot of other things that push through it. It wasn't a case of bad acting - it was a case of the PH balance being wrong. It was like watching black kids in a Chicago slum speaking in Yale accents.

    You ever see the films... (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by Dadler on Thu May 28, 2009 at 09:44:43 AM EST
    ...Salaam Bombay and Born into Brothels?

    I really like watching Born into Brothels (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by of1000Kings on Thu May 28, 2009 at 10:38:26 AM EST
    those kids are so genuine, loving and smart, and even somewhat upbeat...

    it's so amazing considering the environment they grow up in...

    I like to watch it whenever I'm feeling sorry for myself...


    Arundhati Roy seems to be missing (none / 0) (#29)
    by vml68 on Thu May 28, 2009 at 02:46:27 PM EST
    the point...this was not a documentary, it was a fantasy love story. I can't believe anyone would take this movie seriously or read anymore into it than you would your average Hollywood movie where the hero overcomes overwhelming odds and gets the girl in the end .

    And why not? (none / 0) (#30)
    by Jacob Freeze on Thu May 28, 2009 at 04:31:54 PM EST
    Why isn't this a perfect subject for a fantasy love-story?

    Just relax and enjoy the popcorn!


    I'm not sure I understand what it is you (none / 0) (#31)
    by vml68 on Thu May 28, 2009 at 05:02:58 PM EST
    are trying to say. If you have seen Salaam Bombay and Born into Brothels, then you know that there is no comparison between them and Slumdog Millionaire. The first two were real, SM was fiction. For me it was just an anglicized version of a Bollywood film.
    And if you have seen any Bollywood movies you will have seen the pics you linked to all the way to the happily ever after SM ending.