"Slumdog" Child Actors' Triumphant Return

"Slumdog Millionaire" child actor Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, center, gets a rousing welcome as he returns to his home in a slum in Bandra, suburban Mumbai, India, Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009. "Slumdog Millionaire," a tale of hope amid adversity and squalor in Mumbai, came away with eight Oscars, including best picture and director for Danny Boyle. AP Photo

The child stars of the Oscar-winning "Slumdog Millionaire" returned to India on Thursday to a chaotic but rousing heroes' welcome.

Hundreds of well-wishers waited for them at the Mumbai airport, where dozens of police, some heavily armed, were needed to escort the children through the cheering crowds.

The film, a rags-to-riches tale set in Mumbai's slums, was the darling of the Academy Awards, winning eight Oscars, including the award for Best Picture.

The four children came out with arms around each others shoulders. The only girl, Rubina Ali, 9, clutched a small fluffy brown toy bunny.

They waved and blew kisses to the crowd, showing off their newly-acquired red carpet skills.

Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, 8, who plays the youngest version of Jamal, the main character in the film, was hoisted onto someone's shoulders before the children where whisked away in waiting cars without talking to waiting reporters.

It was not immediately clear where they were taken.

With the film's success, the children have become instant celebrities in movie-crazy India, particularly Ali and Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, 10, who were plucked from slums to play parts in the film.

The movie's two Indian Oscar winners, composer A. R. Rahman and sound engineer Resul Pookutty, also were met by cheering throngs who showered them in flower petals as they arrived in their home towns.

Rahman, who won Oscars for musical score and the best song "Jai Ho" - "Be Victorious" in English - led the dancing crowd in chants of "Jai Ho!"

"They (the fans) almost killed me with their love," he told The Press Trust of India after landing in the southern city of Chennai.

Pookutty was also overwhelmed by his reception.

"I never expected something like this," he told reporters. "This is history being made," he said of his award.

By Gautam Singh
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