Missy Schwartz
March 05, 2009 AT 05:30 PM EST

After rubbing elbows with Brangelina at the Oscars, Slumdog Millionaire’s Rubina Ali and Azharuddin Ismail enjoyed a hero’s homecoming in the Mumbai slums. But soon after came grim reports of their struggle to readjust to a place where sewage runs unchecked and electricity is a luxury. One story described ­Ismail, 10, getting slapped by his father for ­refusing to speak to reporters. Ali, 9, was photographed in her muddy Oscar gown, standing near heaps of ­refuse. In Los Angeles, “we lived in very beautiful hotels,” she told People magazine recently. “I have got used to…[that] kind of life.”

None of this is lost on producer Christian Colson and director Danny Boyle, who set up trust funds for the kids and paid for their schooling after the film wrapped. “It’s a really difficult situation that’s spiraling out of control,” Colson tells EW. “We’ve had to constantly reevaluate the challenge of: If you want to lift people out of poverty, how the hell do you do that?” According to him, the children’s parents rejected the filmmakers’ offer to move them from their makeshift shacks into proper apartments, demanding instead payment in cash. “Nothing would be easier than to throw money at this,” says Colson. “But we felt from the beginning that that would be irresponsible.” So he and Boyle (with input from the film’s U.S. distributor Fox Searchlight) have hired local Indian social workers to help negotiate a solution that will relocate the families into safe and clean housing. Colson can’t say how soon they’ll resolve the matter, but he promises he won’t quit until they do. “We are committed to this,” he says. “We’ll still be on this in two or three years. And you can hold me to account on that.”

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