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Child star turned driver recalls own "Slumdog" past
Wed Mar 25, 2009 2:25pm EDT
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By Sumeet Chatterjee
BANGALORE (Reuters) - Once he was as famous as the child stars from "Slumdog Millionaire," but Shafiq Syed's own rags-to-riches story has ended and he now earns $3 a day driving a motor rickshaw.
Having basked in the limelight for his portrayal of a street kid in the 1988 Oscar-nominated film "Salaam Bombay," Syed struggles to feed a family of five at his home in southern India.
"Today the situation is so bad that if I earn today my family will get to eat something tomorrow," he told Reuters.
Watching the child stars of "Slumdog Millionaire" in Los Angeles as the film swept the Oscars in February reminded Syed of his own childhood and short-lived fame.
Like the "Slumdog Millionaire" actors, Syed was also plucked from Mumbai's teeming slums and catapulted to global stardom.
In 1987, and aged 12, Syed ran away from his home in Bangalore with some friends to Mumbai.
With no money to spend in the country's financial and entertainment capital, Syed sheltered under a flyover near the city's crowded Churchgate railway station.
"It was so difficult to survive in those conditions and some of my friends returned to their homes after a couple of weeks," he said. "I was, however, determined not to go back home."
After struggling to survive for two months, Syed saw a glimmer of hope when he and other kids living in slums and on pavements were invited to participate in a theater workshop.
"Many of my friends refused to join it thinking it was a ploy to exploit hapless kids, but for me the bigger attraction was the promise that I would get 20 rupees (40 cents) and one meal every day during the period of the workshop," he recalled.
"Finally one day I was told that I was one of the 15 kids who had been shortlisted to act in a movie," he added.
FAME, THEN THE FLYOVER
During the shooting of "Salaam Bombay," directed by Indian-born Mira Nair, Syed was shifted to a proper home along with the other children.
"I couldn't believe that I would get to act in a film with big stars and when I informed my parents they also thought I was lying and asked me to come back home," he said.
After the film's release, Syed was feted by critics and the media for his strong portrayal of a street kid. Continued...
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