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Page last updated at 15:12 GMT, Thursday, 26 February 2009

Heroes' welcome for Slumdog stars

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Crowds mob Slumdog child stars on their return to India

Huge crowds gave the child stars of Slumdog Millionaire a rousing heroes' welcome as they returned to Mumbai from LA after the film's Oscar glory.

The young actors were greeted with garlands and held aloft by the crowds as they stepped out of Mumbai airport.

Composer AR Rahman, who won two Oscars, received a similar welcome as he arrived in his home city of Chennai.

The film, a rags-to-riches story about the winner of game show Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, won eight Oscars.

The children were flown to Los Angeles for last weekend's 81st annual Academy Awards.

Two of them, Azharuddin Ismail (who plays the youngest Salim) and Rubina Ali (who plays the youngest Latika) still live in the slums in western Mumbai.

'World famous'

The crowds sang Jai Ho - Mr Rahman's theme tune for the film - as the stars arrived home.

Hundreds of friends, fans and relatives jostled to catch a glimpse of them as dozens of police tried to keep control.

Rubina Ali back home in Mumbai on 26/2/09

The children came out of the airport with their arms around each other and waved at the frenzied crowds before getting into Mercedes cars for the journey home.

Rubina Ali, nine, clutched a small fluffy brown rabbit toy.

"This is the proudest moment of our lives. I cannot believe my daughter has become world famous," her father, Rafiq Asghar Ali Quereshi, said.

Her mother said she had prepared her daughter's favourite chicken biryani dish to celebrate her return.

The commotion continued as Azharuddin Ismail and Rubina Ali returned to their slum neighbourhoods, the BBC's Prachi Pinglay reports.

One of the huts was damaged as crowds crammed into the slums and Azharuddin had to be taken to a relative's house for safety.

But neighbours were in awe and proud of the children's achievements, our reporter says.

One man, Aftaab, told her: "See how destiny changes overnight! One day the family was in such bad condition that daily life was a struggle, today the whole world is watching them."

There was an outcry when it emerged that Rubina still lives with her family in a one-room shack while 10-year-old Azharuddin's family home, located under a tarpaulin by a busy road, was recently demolished.

The film makers have strongly denied charges of exploitation, saying the children were paid above local wages, funds have been set up to pay for their education and they have been enrolled in school for the first time.

The Indian state authorities have also said they will provide the families with free housing, saying the children have "brought laurels to the country".



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