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"Slumdog" Win Cheered In Mumbai's Slums

Children broke into Bollywood dance numbers and crowds cheered in the narrow lanes of a teeming Mumbai slum on Monday as their hometown heroes nabbed Hollywood's highest honors.

Two of the child actors in "Slumdog Millionaire" were plucked from a desperately poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Mumbai to star in the rags-to-riches tale that stormed the Academy Awards.

The actors, Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, 10, and Rubina Ali, 9, were flown to Los Angeles for the ceremony, leaving their friends back home to gawk, beam, shout and dance in celebration.

"My eyes couldn't believe that I was seeing Rubina in America," said Saba Qureshi, Rubina's best friend. Saba and her sisters woke before dawn to catch every minute of the Oscars, squealing with joy every time Rubina came on screen. They had one of the handful of TV sets in the neighborhood.

"Slumdog" won eight Oscars, including best picture, best director, and two awards for best music - each time inspiring raucous renditions of the dance routines for which India's movie industry is known.

"It seems like happiness is falling from the sky," said Sohail Qureshi, Saba's father and Rubina's neighbor.

Disclosing their plans for a rousing reception, Rubina's father Rafiq Qureshi said they would go to receive the stars with a music band when they returned.

The Hollywood glitz, the limousines and the red carpets of the Oscars could not be farther away from the Bandra slum, nestled between a major road and filthy train tracks.

Azhar lives in a lean-to made of plastic tarpaulins and moldy blankets. Rubina shares a tin-roofed, cotton-candy colored shack with her parents and her six brothers and sisters. Stray dogs nap on mountains of trash.

Hordes of journalists descended on the neighborhood Monday. TV tripods straddled the thin stream of sewage outside Rubina's home while rows of satellite trucks idled outside a normally sleepy tea stall.

"Normally, no one talks to us and no one comes here, but now everyone is here," Mohammed Ismail, Azhar's father, said before a bouquet of flashing bulbs.

"So far, of the artistes who had gone abroad none could get an Oscar. The fact that these innocent children will get the Oscar makes me feel proud." said Ismail.

About 65 million Indians - roughly a quarter of the urban population - live in slums, according to government surveys. Health care is often nonexistent, child labor is rampant and inescapable poverty forms the backdrop of everyday life.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh congratulated the "Slumdog" team Monday, saying, "The winners have done India proud."

While everyone in the area was excited about their local stars, some objected to the film - and its title - that made them famous.

"I'm poor, but no one can call me a dog," said Fakrunissa Sheikh, 40, who lives in a lean-to next to Azhar's. "I work very hard."

Rubina's friends wouldn't let talk like that cloud the big day.

"She looked like an angel," Saba said after the TV showed Rubina smiling in her white dress. "When she comes back, we will have the biggest party."

In Chennai, the family and friends of Indian film composer A.R. Rahman celebrated his Oscar win.

The 43-year-old composer, hailed in India as the Mozart of Madras, won Oscars on Sunday for best original score and song.

Rahman is no stranger to success in India where he has written scores for more than 130 films since 1992.

Also celebrating were the family and friends of sound designer Resul Pookutty, who won the Oscar in the sound mixing category.

Well-known Bollywood lyricist Gulzar, who wrote the lyrics of the Oscar-winning song ' Jai Ho,' said he had a lump in his throat when he heard Rahman's name being called out at the ceremony.

Actress Sonam Kapoor, whose father Anil Kapoor played the role of the host of the show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" in the film, was elated.

Meanwhile in another part of India, villagers in Mirzapur gathered to dance to drums as news filtered in about the success of the documentary "Smile Pinky," which won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject.

"Smile Pinky" is the story of a child with a lip deformity and is based on the life of Pinky, a girl from the village in North India.

It was made by the American filmmaker Megan Mylan.

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