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Rubina Ali

AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade

The stars of Slumdog Millionaire have been thanked a, well, million by their countryfolk, as hundreds of fans—and dozens of armed, peacekeeping police—turned out at Mumbai's international airport early this morning to welcome the film's child stars and two-time Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman back to India.

Taking a cue from the film that earned eight Oscars, the excitable crowd chanted "Jai Ho!" and greeted Rahman, who touched down around 2:30 a.m., with welcoming bouquets as he made his way through the airport.

"I dedicate the Oscars to the people of the country and young and budding music artists," he said, going on to call his hero's welcome an "overwhelming reception," and saying that his awards show wins "shows anything is possible."

A crowd in his hometown of Chennai continued the celebration of welcoming the 43-year-old music man home, setting up a de facto festival outside him home and greeting him with drums, dancing and singing.

Fans held up banners reading "Congrats Jai Ho Rahman," and "Mozart of Madras," the latter being the former name of his native city.

"I am very happy that you have all turned up here in such large numbers," Rahman told the crowd gathered outside his home in his native Tamil tongue. "I consider this as a first step; I am sure more youths would go ahead to win it. Our music has found good acceptability in the West."

As for the children, they too received a heroes' welcome upon their return, making their way through the airport with their arms around each other and getting draped in traditional Indian garlands.

"It was amazing, America was amazing," Rubina Ali, the actor who played the youngest version of Freida Pinto's character Latika, told reporters.

Ali is one of the two child stars to whom the Indian government has offered new, non-slum housing in the wake of her success.

And while the girl was happy to be back home, she did note that she hoped a return trip was in the cards.

"I loved the pizza there. People are so beautiful. I'm happy to be back but I want to go to America again," she said.

Shortly after their landing, Ali and the rest of the children were quickly whisked off in order to attend a party in the film's honor.