Will America buy this inspirational story too?

With Oscar nominations being announced later today,just two days after President Barack Obama’s entry into the White House...

Written by Sharon Fernandes | Published:January 22, 2009 10:52 pm

With Oscar nominations being announced later today,just two days after President Barack Obama’s entry into the White House,it is perhaps natural that the “yes we can” motto can work for Danny Boyle’s film,Slumdog Millionaire. The reason for this is simple — escape. Anyone who watched the new US President’s speech knows that “the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many.” Faced with such crisis,cinema has always been the perfect getaway. Slumdog Millionaire’s optimistic romance in desperate times may get the movie’s name on the golden envelope.

It isn’t the first time that the world needs hope,as Obama reminded the US in his inaugural speech. And it isn’t the first time that the movies have responded to difficult times. The Great Depression,whose grim reflection we face again,was in the same year that also gave birth to the awards of merit presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — the Oscars.

The nominations’ list for the awards this year may already have a few favourites,with the race for the top spot of best film beginning in mid-2008. Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight,unleashed the most likeable villain act in decades – the joker,played by Heath Ledger,a role that is now etched in movie history. Then we have David Fincher’s The Curious case of Benjamin Button,a story about a man who is born old and who gets younger as he gets older. Kate Winslet starrers,The Reader and Revolutionary Road may also be listed in the nominations.

But as they say: if you want a good story follow the money. And it reads like this: The Dark Knight had a budget of $185 million,The Curious Case of Benjamin Button at $167 million (Brad Pitt does not come cheap). Slumdog Millionaire looks like it was almost made for free. But with a meagre budget of $13 million,our true-blue underdog has been driving the world mad with its breathless,City of Joy on an acid tripping screenplay.

In India,the audience already knows that it has a great movie to go ahead and watch. The world has celebrated it enough for us to already make up our minds about every frame,every tune and every bit of grit on screen that has won us accolades from across the world. The movie has received its due at the Golden Globes presented annually by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA),and most of Hollywood has now seen Anil Kapoor dance,which is saying a lot. It has also got 11 nominations at the BAFTA,including a nomination for previously unknown (even in Bollywood) Freida Pinto in the supporting actress category,she is now on the list rubbing shoulders with Penelope Cruz,Tilda Swinton,Marisa Tomei  and Amy Adams.

But apart from all this there is one very visceral part of this movie,a four letter word: shit,that made sure the international movie reviews had a mention of it. The reference is to the now famous scene of Jamal,the hero who as a kid living in the slums gets locked in an outdoor toilet and jumps into the foul hole beneath him. He then plows through the crowd covered in excrement,to get an autograph of Amitabh Bachchan himself. (This has not been Danny Boyle’s first scene involving a toilet,he had a similar one in his movie,Trainspotting.) But just like Jamal,who will go through anything to live his dream,this movie has also had its run through almost not having a sponsor to bagging all the big awards.

In his inaugural speech,US President Barack Obama said,“We are a nation of Christians and Muslims,Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture,drawn from every end of this earth”. In celebration of these very uplifting words and Slumdog Millionaire’s inspirational tone,we may get a glimpse of Anil Kapoor at the Oscars in the spirit of Obama’s favourite four letter word: Hope.

sharon.fernandes@expressindia.com

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