'Slumdog' star writes memoir – at the age of nine

Rubina Ali, one of the young stars of the Oscar-winning film, is making publishing history with an account of her unexpected rise to fame

She was the young star of the hottest film of last year and only recently performed alongside Nicole Kidman. At nine years old, Rubina Ali, who was plucked from a Mumbai slum to act in the multi-Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire, has already chalked up more experiences than most. Nevertheless, it is hard to know how any child her age could "write" a book about her life. Yet in Slumgirl Dreaming, with which she will make publishing history next week by becoming the youngest person ever to pen a memoir, she does just that.

In it, Rubina – who played the young Latika – describes her early years of poverty; her excitement at visiting America, a country she had never even heard of; and her struggle to readjust after experiencing the wealth and unreality of Hollywood.

Speaking to The Independent on Sunday this weekend, Rubina revealed how her life has been turned upside down by her unexpected fame. Instead of playing outside, she now shelters in her uncle's modest home in Garib Nagar – "the area of the poor" – where she still lives. Otherwise, "I'll get dirty," she says. Now rather than relieve herself near the railway tracks with the rest of the slum kids, she walks 10 minutes and spends two rupees to use a clean toilet.

It is a world away from her description of the US. "The strangest thing was that I didn't see anyone walking: everyone seemed to have a car. It looked empty." She tells how she could not sleep in the giant bed of her hotel room and instead snuggled up with her co-star Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail and his mother. "Even with the three of us, we felt scared in that enormous room," she said.

Since the heady Oscar night Rubina attended in Los Angeles, she has found her slum life "harder and harder", pointing to the rats, cockroaches, mosquitoes and general squalor as being the toughest to bear after tasting the luxury of a Hollywood five-star hotel with bathrooms larger than her slum hut and rooms "big enough to cycle around in".

With the publication of Slumgirl Dreaming, Rubina trumps even the Disney superstar Miley Cyrus by releasing her memoirs so young. Joel Rickett, editorial director of the Penguin imprint Viking, warned: "Writing young doesn't necessarily make for the best book. Sometimes, especially in sport and business, you need a certain level of achievement before you write about what you've done."

The nine-year-old, who many claim was exploited, earning just £500 for her role, is still waiting on a promise from the film's director, Danny Boyle, that he will buy her somewhere to live, "with cement walls, windows, somewhere to put my things and a proper toilet", after her slum home was torn down by the Mumbai authorities. For now, she sleeps in her stepmother's home but spends her days at her uncle's hut, where she keeps the TV she bought plus her treasured dresses including the blue one she wore on Oscar night "because they have a cupboard".

Rubina said she found Nicole Kidman "strange" when they met to shoot a soft drink advert because the milky-skinned actress refused to leave her room during the day, preferring to hide from the heat and the paparazzi. Yet it is precisely such behaviour that Rubina now finds herself mimicking.

She has little time for journalists and talks about how her father was set up by the News of the World in a sting that claimed Rafiq Qureshi was prepared to sell his daughter. The story prompted a fight between her father and her biological mother, who abandoned Rubina at birth but recently reappeared . "As for my biological mother, I hate her more than ever. I am not for sale, and whoever claims I am is a liar," she said.

Divya Dugar, a journalist who spent 10 weeks with Rubina helping to co-write Slumgirl Dreaming, said the young star wanted to move out of the slum and to study. "Learning English is her key to success," Dugar said. Rubina's school fees are paid for out of a trust fund set up by Danny Boyle and Cloud Nine Films.

The young author was paid an undisclosed sum up front for her story by Black Swan, the publishers, and will share the royalties with Médicins du Monde, a French charity setting up local healthcare projects for new mothers and children in Mumbai.

So much, so young

Chantelle Houghton Living the Dream

Age at publication: 23

Claim to fame: "Famous" for appearing as the "fake celebrity" on Celebrity Big Brother 4, where she somewhat handily ended up getting together with her future husband, Preston of the Ordinary Boys

Billie Piper Growing Pains

Age at publication: 24

Claim to fame: Pop singer turned actress who before her star turn as Rose in Doctor Who had been best known for her ill-fated marriage to Chris Evans

Gareth Gates Right from the Start

Age at publication: 18

Claim to fame: Coming, erm, second to Will Young in Pop Idol. Other riveting twists to his life include sleeping with Jordan

Miley Cyrus Miles to Go

Age at publication: 16

Claim to fame: The teen-singing daughter of one-hit wonder Billy Ray Cyrus, she shot to fame as Disney's Hannah Montana

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary charm: Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in 2004’s ‘King Arthur’
FilmGuy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle the legend
Arts and Entertainment
Corporate affair: The sitcom has become a satire of corporate culture in general

TV review

Broadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: There are some impressive performances by Claire Skinner and Lorraine Ashbourne in Inside No. 9, Nana's Party spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Glastonbury's pyramid stage

Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair

Arts and Entertainment
Ewan McGregor looks set to play Lumiere in the Beauty and the Beast live action remake

Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie feels the lack of food on The Island with Bear Grylls


The Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts and Entertainment
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, in a scene from Avengers: Age Of Ultron
filmReview: A great cast with truly spectacular special effects - but is Ultron a worthy adversaries for our superheroes? spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Ince performing in 2006
Arts and Entertainment
Beth (played by Jo Joyner) in BBC1's Ordinary Lies
tvReview: There’s bound to be a second series, but it needs to be braver spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, the presenters of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 2015

Arts and Entertainment
A still from Harold Ramis' original Groundhog Day film, released in 1993

Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury


Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas


Arts and Entertainment


Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7


Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary


Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige


Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence