Play truant and you'll lose trust fund, Slumdog stars told

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The Independent Online

The two child stars of Slumdog Millionaire are at risk of losing their monthly stipend and their trust fund if they do not start attending school.

Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, 11, and Rubina Ali, 10, shot to fame after starring in the Oscar-winning film. But Azhar is attending school only 37 per cent of the time, and Rubina only a 27 per cent.

"It's pathetic," said Noshir Dadrawala, who helps administer the Jai Ho Trust established by the film's makers, Danny Boyle and Christian Colson, to provide an education, living allowance and housing for the young stars, who grew up in Mumbai's real-life shantytowns.

Azhar played the role of the young Salim, the main character whose childhood in Mumbai's slums helps him win a fortune and love through a television quiz show as an adult. Rubina played the role of the female lead Latika, as a child.

Mr Dadrawala blamed the children's busy schedule for their chronic truancy. "They are constantly going to Paris and Cochin and Chennai," he said. "That's fine, but go over the weekend, not at the sacrifice of school."

Azhar's mother, Shameen Ismail, said her son had been truant over the past two months because he was inconsolable after his father died from tuberculosis in September. "He would cry often, so I kept him home from school for a while," she said. She promised his attendance would improve. "As long as I'm alive, I will make sure my son gets an education."

Rubina's father, Rafiq Qureshi, said the girl was not in school because her slum shanty was destroyed and she was cut on the leg by a piece of glass. "It will not happen next time," he said.

Slumdog director Danny Boyle and producer Christian Colson said in a statement: "We are disappointed that Azhar and Rubina's school attendance remains patchy. We have urged both families to honour their commitment to ensure regular school attendance.".

Mr Dadrawala said that if the children did not get their attendance above 70 per cent they would lose their monthly stipend of about $120 (£70).

If they fail to graduate, they will forfeit a lump sum payment set aside by the film-makers to help the children get a start in life.