Finally, a Slumdog Millionaire controversy more substantive than idiots whining about the title.
“Danny Boyle has spoken of how he set up trust funds for Indian child actors Rubina Ali and Azharuddin Ismail and paid for their education. But it has emerged that the children were paid less than many Indian domestic servants.
Rubina was paid £500 ($745) for a year’s work [they didn’t do an entire year’s work, I guarantee you] while Azharuddin received £1,700 ($2,532.95), according to the children’s parents.
However a spokesman for the film’s American distributors, Fox Searchlight, disputed this saying the fees were more than three times the average annual salary an adult in their neighbourhood would receive. They would not disclose the actual sum.
Fox doesn’t sound like they’re disputing the actual amount, they’re just saying the amount is three times the average annual salary of someone LIVING IN AN INDIAN SLUM. Not necessarily the best defense.
Both children were found places in a local school and receive £20 ($29.80) a month for books and food. However, they continue to live in grinding poverty and their families say they have received no details of the trust funds set up in their names.
Their parents said that they had hoped the film would be their ticket out of the slums, and that its success had made them realise how little their children had been paid.
Fair enough, but if the film lost $10 million, no one would be asking the kids to give their salaries back. Except maybe Chet in Accounting. That guy’s a real dickweed.
The children received considerably less than the poor Afghan child stars of The Kite Runner, who embarrassed their Hollywood producers when they disclosed that they had been paid £9,000 ($13,413.12).
Rubina and Azharuddin live a few hundreds yards from each other in a tangle of makeshift shacks alongside Mumbai’s railway tracks at Bandra. Azharuddin is in fact worse off than he was during filming: his family’s illegal hut was demolished by the local authorities and he now sleeps under a sheet of plastic tarpaulin with his father, who suffers from tuberculosis.
“There is none of the money left. It was all spent on medicines to help me fight TB,” Azharuddin’s father said. “We feel that the kids have been left behind by the film. They have told us there is a trust fund but we know nothing about it and have no guarantees.”
Further down the tracks, an open sewer trickles past the hut that Rubina shares with her parents, older brother and sister. Her father, a carpenter, broke his leg during filming and has been out of work since. “I am very happy the movie is doing so well, but it is making so much money and so much fame and the money they paid us is nothing. They should pay more,” he said, wafting away the smoke from a nearby fire. “I have no regrets. I just had no knowledge of what she should have been paid.”
Well living in a slum sucks no matter how you slice it, and the filmmakers probably should’ve paid their child actors a lot more. Then again, it could be worse. Look at Danny Masterson.
A Fox Searchlight spokesman said: “The welfare of Azhar and Rubnia has always been a top priority for everyone involved with Slumdog Millionaire.
“A plan has been in place for over 12 months to ensure that their experience working on Slumdog Millionaire would be of long term benefit. For 30 days work, the children were paid three times the average local annual adult salary. Last year after completing filming, they were enrolled in school for the first time and a fund was established for their future welfare, which they will receive if they are still in school when they turn 18 [by the way, why don’t we have this “still in school” contingency for American actors? Fox Searchlight are apparently better parents than the Hogan family.].
“Due to the exposure and potential jeopardy created by the unwarranted press attention, we are looking into additional measures to protect Azhar and Rubina and their families. We are extremely proud of this film, and proud of the way our child actors have been treated.” [via Telegraph, picture source = Reuters]
Look, if these kids are having such a shitty life, they should just go on Who Wants to be a Millionaire. If I learned anything from that film, it’s that living a hard life on the streets will teach you all you need to know in order to win the grand prize.