Missy Schwartz
March 06, 2009 AT 05:00 AM 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 schooling after the film wrapped. ”We’ve had to reevaluate the challenge of: If you want to lift people out of poverty, how the hell do you do that?” Colson tells EW. According to him, the children’s parents rejected the filmmakers’ offer to move them from shacks into proper apartments, demanding cash. ”Nothing would be easier than to throw money at this,” says Colson. ”But we felt that would be irresponsible.” So he and Boyle have hired local social workers to help negotiate a solution that will relocate the families. Colson promises he won’t quit until the matter is settled. ”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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