It was India's night at the Oscars with Indian music, colours and stories sweeping eight Academy Awards this year. Composer A.R. Rahman, lyricist Gulzar and sound designer Resul Pookutty took home three golden statuettes for their contribution to Danny Boyle’s hit movie. Meanwhile, Japan’s “Okuribito” or “Departures” about an undertaker was voted best foreign language movie. “Smile Pinki”, which won best short documentary, talks of an Indian girl fighting against the stigma of a cleft-lip.
Indian composer AR Rahman holds his two Oscars
Across India, children broke into Bollywood dance numbers, crowds were ecstatic and the millions who were glued to their television sets were overjoyed as “Slumdog Millionaire” bagged the most Oscars of 2009.
The composer A R Rahman took home two golden statuettes -- one for the score and one for his song “Jai Ho”, which translates into English as May You Win. The song could be heard coming out of the country’s homes, restaurants and slums in celebration of the movie, which tells a rags-to-riches saga of the underbelly of Mumbai’s shanties.
“Slumdog Millionaire”, by British director Danny Boyle, also won the Oscars for best picture and best director at the 2009 Academy Awards ceremony at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles.
The film, based on a book by an Indian diplomat, is about an 18-year-old orphan from a Mumbai slum who ends up winning a staggering sum of money on India's "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" game show.
Only two Indian Oscar winners before
Only two Indians had ever won the golden statuette -- Bhanu Athaiya for costume design in 1982 and Satyajit Ray for lifetime achievement in 1992.
Rahman became the first Indian to ever perform at the glittering ceremony watched worldwide by millions. In his acceptance speech, he thanked the “whole crew, especially Danny Boyle for giving me such a great opportunity, and all the people of Mumbai. The essence of this film is of optimism and the power of hope in our lives. All my life I had a choice of hate and love. I chose love. And I am here.”
There was an overwhelming sentiment of pride across India after the awards ceremony. But the film has not been without controversy.
Clichéd portrayal of India’s slums?
Several NGOs slammed it for its title, which they said was demeaning to slum-dwellers. Whereas some film stars criticised it for portraying India's slums in clichéd fashion. There were also allegations that the child actors had not been paid enough for their work.
But Suresh Kapur, a social activist who has arranged several screenings of the movie for children in slums, says the film sends out an important message: “Ultimately, what I’d say is that the movie has fortunately proved that the world and this country is not for rich people only.”
“Even a guy from a slum area can grow up to be a rich person. Basically this man is an inspiration for them -- the slum people, the poor people, so they can have hope and also be rich.”
Actor Anil Kapoor, who plays the supporting role, said the Oscars would provide a big boost to the Indian film industry: “I can’t tell you what this moment means for India. We should grab it by both hands and make the best use of it. Today India is flying.”