Movie executives behind SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE have been forced to defend the low wages paid to the young Indian actors in the critically acclaimed film - following criticism from the children's parents. Officials at Fox Searchlight have come under fire from relatives of Rubina Ali and Azharuddin Ismail, who played Latika and Salim in the early scenes of the film, who have accused filmmakers of underpaying the youngsters.
Ali received $725 (£500) for a years work while Azharuddin received $2,465 (£1,700).
Azharuddin's home in the slums of Mumbai, close to where the film was shot, was demolished by the local authorities during filming and he now sleeps under a sheet of plastic tarpaulin with his father, who suffers from tuberculosis.
Azharuddins father, Mohammed Ismail, says, "There is none of the money left. It was all spent on medicines to help me fight TB. 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.
But movie bosses have come to the defence of the picture, which is expected to make hundreds of millions of dollars at the international box office.
A statement from Fox Searchlight reads, "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.
"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."
While director Danny Boyle adds in a joint statement with producer Christian Colson, "We paid painstaking and considered attention to how Azhar and Rubinas involvement in the film could be of lasting benefit to them over and above the payment they received for their work. Since June 2008 and at our expense, both kids have been attending school and they are flourishing under the tutelage of their dedicated and committed teachers. We were delighted to see them progressing well when we visited their school and met with their teachers last week.