Saturday, February 28, 2009

From Slumdog to slapdog: Child actor beaten by father for refusing to leave shack

He's become an object of adulation for millions, but ten-year-old Azharuddin Ismail’s stardom doesn’t appear to cut much ice back at home with his father.

The youngster, who played the hero of Slumdog Millionaire as a child, received a beating from Ismail Usnay, 45, apparently for disobedience.

On Thursday, Azharuddin had returned to Mumbai after Slumdog’s triumph at the Oscar ceremony.

Exhausted by a chaotic welcome and a long flight from Los Angeles, he was given the day off school yesterday.
But when he refused to step outside his home in the Dharavi
slum in Bandra to speak to journalists, his father lashed out.

‘His father went mad,’ said a witness.

‘He wanted to show his son off to journalists and local people, but Azharuddin said he wanted to be left alone because he was tired.’

Crying and holding his ear, Azharuddin ran inside the makeshift home and tried to hide in the corner.

The ugly scene lasted no more than 30 seconds after Usnay, who is infected with TB, was restrained by neighbours.

The child's mother, who is blind in one eye, had also begged the 45-year-old to stop the physical punishment.

Last night, he apologised for striking his son.

‘I was so confused and stressed by my son’s homecoming,’ he added. ‘I love my boy and I am very happy to have him home.’

The aggression was in stark contrast to the previous day's triumphant return to the slums, when Azharuddin's father lifted him up and paraded him like a trophy for the expectant crowds.

With the massed media long gone and the euphoria of returning home ebbing away, the reality of life in the slums seemed to be hitting the child hard.

Having paraded down the red carpets of Hollywood only six days ago and enjoyed the luxury of five-star hotels, returning to the slums must have come as something of a shock.

However, the families of Azharuddin and his co-star Rubina Ali, eight, have each been promised a flat each from the city in recognition of the honour they have brought to Mumbai. Details on their location and size are not yet known.

Only moments before his father's attack, Azharuddin had spoken of his tiredness due to the long flight and desire for the attention to stop.

'I do not want to speak today to any reporters,' he said.

His father, possibly hoping that his son could be his ticket out of the slums, has insisted his son poses for pictures and gives interviews to the foreign media.

He has also claimed that Slumdog director Danny Boyle and the producers of the eight Oscar-winning film have not done enough for him and his family.