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'Slumdog' kids in Hong Kong for charity show

THE Indian child stars of the Oscar-winning "Slumdog Millionaire" wowed Hong Kong with a taste of Bolly°?wood over the weekend, performing a dance number live on TV that raised more than US$100,000 for charity and singing to cheering fans at a shopping mall.

Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail and Rubina Ali danced to the movie's hit song "Jai Ho" at a fund-raising TV show on Saturday, sometimes moving out of synch with the adult dancers, but they were warmly applauded.

Presenters announced after the performance that one donor phoned in a contribution of HK$830,000 (US$107,000) for The Community Chest charity during the dance number.

Yesterday, the two 10-year-olds and the nine-year-old staged a similar dance number and sang "Jai Ho" - or "Victory to You" - at a shopping mall to an audience of hundreds. They sang off-key but drew an enthusiastic response. The trio later signed autographs.

Khedekar and Ismail said in a brief question-and-answer session yesterday that they wanted to continue their acting careers. Khedekar named Indian film star Hrithik Roshan and Brad Pitt as his favorite actors, saying he picked Pitt "because he's very cute and he's a very nice actor."

Ismail said she preferred Pitt's partner, Angelina Jolie.

"Slumdog Millionaire" is about an orphan from Mumbai's shantytowns who wins the Indian version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." British director Danny Boyle cast real-life slum residents Khedekar and Ismail in the film. Ali did not grow up in the slums.

Some critics have accused the film makers of exploiting Khedekar and Ismai, and efforts to improve their living conditions have been complicated by their families' changing demands and neighbors' jealousy.

Fearing a lump-sum payment would be squandered, the film makers set up a trust fund for the two children. They also donated US$747,500 to a charity devoted to improving the lives of Mumbai street children. The two children's shanties were razed as part of a city slum-clearing campaign, but the film makers and Indian government °?officials have promised them new homes.


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