Hollywood: India’s ace musician A R Rehman won two Oscars - for best original score and the song Jai Ho in the Bollywood-inspired movie Slumdog Millionaire on Sunday at Hollywood’s Kodak Theater.
The build-up to this year’s ceremony has been dominated by the Slumdog, which has swept other awards and is considered the overwhelming favorite for the best picture statuette.
Spanish siren Penelope Cruz and Slumdog Millionaire won early Oscars as a revamped Academy Awards got off to an electric start at Kodak Theater. Cruz won the best supporting actress prize for her part in the steamy Woody Allen comedy Vicky Cristina Barcelona while best picture favorite Slumdog picked up its first award of the night for best adapted screenplay.
Soon awards in other categories followed for Slumdog - it won Oscars for best film editing, best sound mixing and best cinematography.
Heath Ledger won the Oscar best supporting actor posthumously for the joker’s role in Dark Knight.
In other early honors, Disney-Pixar’s hit film Wall-E won the best animated movie award while gay rights biopic Milk earned a best original screenplay statuette for its writer Dustin Lance Black.
Period romance The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which began the night with 13 nominations, won two early Oscars in the technical categories of art direction and makeup.
The new-look awards extravaganza had got off to a flying start with Australian actor host Hugh Jackman wasting no time in launching into a medley of musical numbers that referenced this year’s nominees.
Earlier, the stars of Slumdog Millionaire delighted onlookers on the red carpet with director Danny Boyle accompanying several of the child actors who were flown to Hollywood for the ceremony - a world away from their lives in Mumbai’s shantytowns. “It’s unbelievable. I never thought I’d be at the Oscars,” said a beaming Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, one of the Slumdog child actors.
Khedekar and his young co-stars could later be seen crowding around to get autographs from British actor Daniel Craig, better known as British superspy 007 in the James Bond action films.
The red carpet roll call read like a who’s who of the entertainment industry, with best actor and actress nominees Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie triggering excitement after they arrived together.
Pundits say Slumdog has delighted audiences with its rags-to-riches plot about a Mumbai tea boy who rises out from poverty and enters a television quiz show to win millions and be reunited with the love of his life.
Other rivals in the best picture category are Benjamin Button, political drama Frost/Nixon, biopic Milk and Holocaust drama The Reader. With Slumdog and Boyle heavily favoured to win best picture and director, pundits are looking to the acting honors to provide suspense.
Sean Penn, who plays a trailblazing gay politician in Milk, and Kate Winslet, who plays a Nazi death camp guard in The Reader are the front-runners in the best actor and actress categories.
However, Penn faces stiff competition from Mickey Rourke, who won last month’s Golden Globes for playing a washed up prizefighter in The Wrestler.
Meanwhile, Winslet’s hopes of a first Academy Award after missing out on five previous occasions are threatened by two-time Oscar-winner Meryl Streep (Doubt), with Melissa Leo (Frozen River) tipped as a dark horse.