Mohammed Ismail, left, holds the hand of his son, Azhar, 10 – a star of Slumdog Millionaire – and his wife Shamim in the flat bought for them by the filmmakers. The picture was taken the day before his death Photograph: Gethin Chamberlain

The father of Slumdog Millionaire child star Azhar Ismail has died of tuberculosis at the family’s home in Mumbai.

Mohammed Ismail’s premature death will inevitably fuel the controversy surrounding the fate of the slum children who appeared in the movie, which has grossed more than £86m worldwide since its release.

He died today in the new flat bought for the family by the trust set up by director Danny Boyle. Azhar, 10, was at school at the time and did not learn of the death until he returned home in the early evening.

In the movie Azhar played the part of Salim, the brother of the film’s lead character. In February he travelled to Los Angeles for the Oscars ceremony, where the film picked up eight awards, and on his return to the slum with co-star Rubina Ali he was greeted by cheering crowds.

But the failure of the children to subsequently escape the slum life has been the subject of controversy both within India and abroad.

Ismail found himself at the centre of a media storm after he was photographed slapping Azhar for refusing to talk to journalists shortly after the Oscar ceremony.

Azhar later said that the image portrayed of his father was undeserved. “I was being naughty and he slapped me like any father would. I was the one who More >