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Hollywood ending for slum kids

THE youngest stars of "Slumdog Millionaire" bubbled over with smiles and enthusiasm on the red carpet at the Oscars, and the crowd reflected it all back.

Two of the six actors had an improbable journey from the slums of Mumbai, India, to the world's most dazzling awards show. All of them looked as polished in front of the assembled throng of media as Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.

The two youngest were plucked from the slums by British director Danny Boyle to star in the rags-to-riches tale of a slum kid who makes it big. The film was nominated for 10 Oscars, and was an early winner in six categories for adapted screenplay, cinematography, film editing, sound mixing, original score and original song.

"It's fantastic. It's beyond our dreams," said Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar, who played the "middle" age protagonist Latika, as she glanced around at the gaggle of famous faces jamming the long red carpet outside Hollywood's Kodak Theatre.

Lonkar is one of the nine actors who play the three lead characters in three stages of their lives. The group chattered happily away to the reporters sticking microphones and cameras in their smiling faces.

Asked by one to show off their dance moves, they eagerly complied, with Tanay Hemant Chheda proclaiming, "All Indians can dance."

Four of the six speak English, and they frequently talked over each other, but all agreed they want to be in more movies.

Lonkar admitted she hoped to meet Tom Cruise and tell him, "Hi, I'm your biggest fan."

Rubina Ali, a 9-year-old who played the young Latika, lives in the slums, along with her 10-year-old neighbor and co-star Azharuddin Ismail. He had never been on a plane or traveled outside India until his trip to Hollywood.

Ali wore a pale blue short dress and white ballet flats, with henna decorating her arms and staining her fingernails. The boys wore tuxedos and Lonkar wore a pale mauve dress.

For Rubina and Azharuddin, there was a frenzied scramble last week to get visas, passports and tickets after their parents decided at the last minute they wanted them to attend the ceremony. Everything came through Thursday, and on Friday they were cruising Mumbai in an air-conditioned sport utility vehicle, doing last-minute shopping and getting advice.

In the tiny shack that is Ali's home, her mother Munni Qureshi watched the awards on TV as her three other children slept on the floor next to her.

Other winners at the 81st Academy Awards:

Foreign Film: "Departures," Japan

Adapted Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy, "Slumdog Millionaire"

Original Screenplay: Dustin Lance Black, "Milk"

Animated Feature Film: "WALL-E"

Cinematography: "Slumdog Millionaire"

Sound Mixing: "Slumdog Millionaire"

Sound Editing: "The Dark Knight"

Original Score: "Slumdog Millionaire," A.R. Rahman

Original Song: "Jai Ho" from "Slumdog Millionaire," A.R. Rahman and Gulzar

Costume: "The Duchess"

Documentary Feature: "Man on Wire"

Documentary (short subject): "Smile Pinki"

Film Editing: "Slumdog Millionaire"

Makeup: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

Animated Short Film: "La Maison en Petits Cubes"

Live Action Short Film: "Spielzeugland (Toyland)"

Visual Effects: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

Art Direction: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"


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