A R Rahman, now know as Mozart Of Madras, picks up three Oscars for his work in Danny Boyle’s Oscar winning Slumdog Millionaire. Rahman is the third Indian to win an Oscar, after costume designer Bhanu Athaiya for her work in Gandhi in 1983 and director Satyajit Ray in 1992.
“I just want to thank again the whole crew of Slumdog Millionaire, especially Danny Boyle, for giving me such a great opportunity,” he said, while accepting the award.
Slumdog Millionaire took the best-picture Academy Award and seven other Oscars today, including director for Danny Boyle, whose ghetto-to-glory story paralleled the film’s unlikely rise to Hollywood’s summit. It was a big winner at the Golden Globe Awards. It won film of the year and two other awards at the Richard Attenborough Film Awards, voted on by British critics. The movie has British director, producer, writer and studio. Nevertheless India has claimed it as its own perhaps because of the cast, crew, and location.
However the film has not been much loved in India. Not only did the film failed to capture the imaginations of Indian film goers; it’s also been dogged by controversy over its name and the treatment of its child stars. Some have called it poverty-porn.
“If ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ projects India as Third World dirty underbelly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots, let it be known that a murky underbelly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations,” leading actor Amitabh Bachchan said in a posting on his blog from Paris, France. “Its just that the ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ idea authored by an Indian and conceived and cinematically put together by a westerner, gets creative global recognition,” he added.”The commercial escapist world of Indian cinema had vociferously battled for years, on the attention paid and the adulation given to the legendary Satyajit Ray… and not a word of appreciation for the entertaining mass-oriented box office blockbusters that were being churned out from Mumbai. “Ray portrayed reality. While, the other – escapism, fantasy and incredulous posturing. Unimpressive for Cannes and Berlin and Venice (film festivals),” he explained.
While Slumdog Millionaire won eight Oscars, it’s not the only film shot in India that was nominated and won. A 40-minute documentary about an eight-year-old girl Pinky Sonkar from Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh, Smile Pinky by American filmmaker Magan Mylan has also been nominated for Best Documentary.
Pinky had stopped smiling, even stopped going to school because she was ashamed of her cleft lip, a deformity 35,000 children are born with in India every year. Then this year, The Smile Train arrived in Pinky’s village and her world changed forever. The story was captured by American filmmaker Magan Mylan for the world in a film he called Smile Pinky. While Pinky was getting ready getting her passport and visa ready to walk on the red carpet, she did not know why. Pinky’s mother could not watch the Oscar ceremony since she does not have access to television set.
Not only some of the cast and their families aware of the success of these films at Oscars, they are not even aware what Oscars are.
“I liked the film. I felt that I was seeing my own life on big screen,” Dighe said, while adding that its success would have little impact at home. “I don’t see anything changing in Dharavi. It will be the same in my lifetime,” Dighe said. “Our politicians couldn’t change anything in the last 60 years, so what will these filmmakers do? They will come and shoot and make money. We will be here today, tomorrow and even after next 60 years,” he added.
“It won’t make any difference to our lives,” agreed Manjula, a mother of six, as she collected water from one of the slum’s communal pumps. “Whoever made it, they will make money. What do we know about all that?” she said.
“I’m not sure if it will do anything for the films that are being made here, because it was made by a British director with a very Western sensibility,” said Mrinal Desai, who worked on the movie as second director of photography. “What I think ‘Slumdog’ will provide is a higher level of credibility to the production process of making films in India and working with Indian crews,” Desai said.”Very much like outsourcing of software writing has been done to India, India might become a destination of sorts for certain kind of film productions as well.”
Noted Bollywood filmmaker, Mahesh Bhatt, said the Indian and Western approach to cinema storytelling remained fundamentally different. “India lives in Dharavi but our films are about Disneyland,” Bhatt said.
Jill Gwen said, “If you have a great quality product with content that is very provocative, endearing and intriguing, people will go to the movies.”
RahulBose added, “You make what you want to make and it carries appeal across cultures and if it will make sense to somebody in Toronto or Berlin. One will either have to tell special stories or tell them specially.”
“Don’t let the title throw you off,” OprahWinfrey says. “If you are ready to be swept away by one of the most original love stories of the year—one of the most original love stories we’ve ever seen—you must give yourself the gift of Slumdog Millionaire.”