Was Slumdog Baby Almost Sold?

I haven’t gotten a chance yet to pay too much attention to Slumdog Millionaire. It did clean up big at award season but there’s just nothing about it that jumps out at me and makes me want to pay attention. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s a movie based on a TV game show, which originated in Britain but made it big in America but was filmed in India. Huh? Yep, that’s about how I’ve felt about it. But now there’s one more thing to this movie that has me scratching my head and it has nothing to do with what happened on the set but rather, what’s happening now, or almost happened to one of its youngest stars.

The star is child actress, Rubina Ali, who is 9 years old. It seems that even though she was in this huge movie she cannot escape the real slums that she actually lives in and that her dad has thought of a possible way out of the slums and into the good life. All he has to do is sell his now-famous daughter. From People,

The father of Slumdog Millionaire child star Rubina Ali has denied a report in Britain’s News of the World that he was prepared to place his 9-year-old daughter up for adoption for $300,000 as a “lie made up by foreign journalists playing games with me,” he tells PEOPLE.

The newspaper reported that Rafiq Qureshi, 36, demanded money after it had sent reporters posing as wealthy people from Dubai who said they wished to adopt a child.

Qureshi’s brother Moiuddin, who was present at the late-night meeting at a luxury Mumbai hotel, is reported to have insisted on an even higher figure for the transaction – the original offer was said to be about $75,000 – because of Rubina’s fame.

News of the World, which published a photo of its reporters with Rubina and her father meeting together, reported the uncle as saying: “The child is special now. This is not an ordinary child. This is an Oscar child!”

Qureshi tells PEOPLE that there had been an offer but insisted that he had feigned interest out of politeness and a reluctance to appear cold and unfriendly. He said, “In India, you never say ‘no’ directly, least of all to guests. You try not to offend people by refusing to help. They said they were childless and desperately fond of Rubina after seeing her in the film. I felt sorry for them, but I was never going to give her up.”

In reference to the News of the World story, which has been picked up around the world, an angry Meena told PEOPLE: “We are poor, yes, but not so poor that we have to sell our children. The whole thing is a lie.”

Rubina backed up her father’s statement, calling the News of the World report untrue. “I trust my father. He loves me. He has never said that he wants to give me up,” she said. “I did meet an uncle and auntie in a big hotel but it was not about adoption. I will never give any foreign journalist an interview again.”

I don’t think I’ve ever met a 9-year-old that knew the word ‘foreign’ or ‘journalists’ so the fact that what Rubina said was so obviously scripted really has me wondering. I would be tempted to blame that on a language barrier and translation issues, because I so, so, so desperately don’t want to believe this story but when Rubina’s mother speaks, it doesn’t sound like there’s any language issues. I also have a very hard time believing that Rubina’s father was just trying to be polite. I understand that in some cultures traditions and courtesies are very important but I think if someone asks to buy your child, no matter which country you’re from, your first reaction should be a resounding “No!”

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