Mumbai: India basked in the reflected glory of “Slumdog Millionaire” after the movie’s Oscar success on Monday, although there was little red-carpet glamour to be found in the Mumbai slums where it was set.
The Danny Boyle movie, which won eight Oscars including best film, has a British director, producer, writer and studio, but India has claimed it as its own because of the Indian cast, crew and location.
Indian pride was further served by a double Oscar win for “Slumdog” composer A.R. Rahman, known here as the “Mozart of Madras,” who scooped the best original score and best song statuette at the Los Angeles awards ceremony.
The cast and crew of “Slumdog Millionaire” arrive for the 81st Academy Awards. Amy Sancetta / AP
“They have done India proud,” said Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a message congratulating the “entire Slumdog Millionaire team.”
In his acceptance speech, Rahman, who is only the third Indian to win an Oscar, hailed “all the people from Mumbai and the essence of the film, which is about optimism and the power of hope and our lives.”
“Slumdog” received strong reviews on its Indian release and the urban audience response was enthusiastic.
But some critics attacked the title as offensive, while others said the plot -- about a slum-dweller who wins a TV quiz show -- reinforced Western stereotypes about the country.
Anyone crossing the bridge of Mumbai’s Mahim railway station on Monday morning and entering Dharavi, India’s largest slum, was greeted by a huge poster stating, “We are not Slumdogs,” in Hindi.
Actor Anil Kapoor, center, celebrates with cast and crew after the film “Slumdog Millionaire” won best motion picture of the year at the 81st Academy Awards. Mark J. Terrill / AP
Not only were most of Dharavi’s residents unaware of the film’s Oscar success, they weren’t even sure what the Oscars were.
“I’ve seen the movie and I liked it, but I felt bad because of the name,” said Varsha Jitendra Bhosle, 23, who has lived all her life in Dharavi.
“They filmed in Dharavi and it is about Dharavi, but the name “Slumdog”... They called us dogs, so I felt bad,” she said.
One of the few people in Dharavi who had heard of Slumdog’s Oscar sweep, Prashant Dighe, said he was delighted the film had done well.
“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.
Some Indian filmmakers said the film’s Oscar success would have an indirect impact on the domestic industry.
Neighbours of Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail watch the a telecast of the 81st Annual Academy Awards near his home, in a slum in Bandra, suburban Mumbai, India. Azharuddin, who attended the ceremony, played the youngest version of Salim, the brother of the main character Jamal, in the Oscar-nominated film “Slumdog Millionaire.” Gautam Singh / AP
“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. “So films like ‘Slumdog’ just don’t connect with Indian masses.”