Mumbai/New Delhi: For the Slumdog Millionaire Oscar-fame kid Azharuddin, it was like a bolt from the blue - a slap from his father for refusing interview to a foreign journalist.
Azharuddin, 10, who returned from Los Angeles on Thursday, along with his co-star Rubina Ashfaq Ali Qureshi and four other children, was weary with the constant media attention and wanted to rest, their neighbour Yakub Abdul Sheikh said.
However, Sheikh said, his father Ismail Mohammed had already committed time to a foreign journalist.
"When Azharuddin refused to oblige, he slapped him (Friday), but later was full of remorse," Sheikh said.
Another resident, Dildar Bandarkar said the poor slum-dwellers are not used to the sudden international media glare and do not know how to behave. "They are their usual old self, but small actions like this get blown out of proportion," he said.
The incident invited sharp reaction from Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury on Saturday. "The incident is reflection of sadness of our system. That is why exactly we have National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). We will definitely look into the matter and will take it with the commission," Chowdhury told reporters on sidelines of a function in Delhi.
"Our society is too used to slapping children. Many parents don't realise the harm they do. In the particular case, we hope we can counsel the father and will see what can be done," she said.
However, Sheikh said Azharuddin attempted to protect his father - who is suffering from tuberculosis for 20 years, and even wife Shamim rushed to defend him. Both Azharuddin and his mother Shamim dismissed the incident, saying he was being naughty and so his father slapped him - "but we all love him very much," she said.
In fact, both Sheikh and Bandarkar said that after the initial curiosity, now the slum-dwellers of Garib Nagar in Bandra east were getting tired of the constant flow of mediapersons to the area since over a week.
"The area is very congested, with narrow lanes and media vans virtually block access to the area, inconveniencing the people here," Sheikh said, adding that even now, mediapersons continue to come there, though in dwindling numbers.
Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle and producer Christian Colson have promised to help move Azharuddin and fellow star Rubina Ali, 9, out of the Mumbai slums where the movie is based.
The children play the younger versions of two of the film's main characters, Salim and Latika.