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India Celebrates 'Slumdog Millionaire's' Oscar Sweep 



From slum residents to filmmakers, Indians celebrated as the film Slumdog Millionaire swept eight Oscars and hoped it would bring global recognition to Indian technical talent. There was also jubilation that the Oscar for the best short documentary, won by American filmmaker Megan Mylan, was inspired by an Indian story.

It was perhaps the first time ever that some residents of Mumbai's sprawling Dharavi slum forgot Monday morning's grind and watched television to hear what news would emerge from the Oscar ceremony in Los Angeles.

The crowd broke out in lusty cheers each time the film bagged an award, although not many residents of Dharavi were even aware of what exactly the Oscars were.

The heart of the film Slumdog Millionaire - the rags to riches story of a boy from an Indian slum - is based in Dharavi, Asia's largest slum. Two of the children who act in the film came from Dharavi.

The Oscars received by the movie has triggered a rush of national pride across India, particularly in Mumbai - the city where India's film industry popularly known as Bollywood is based.

The film has a British director, producer and writer. But most of the actors, crew, and locations are Indian and some won the top recognition in the world of cinema.

Music Director A.R. Rahman took two Oscars. One came for best score. He also shared the Oscar for best song, "Jai Ho" with lyricist Gulzar - also an Indian. Resul Pookutty won an Oscar for best sound mixing.

Cheering fans of music composer A.R. Rahman, who has won many national awards, are confident that the Oscars he has won will give Indian music an international identity. He is already one of world's best-selling recording artists.

And, filmmakers are optimistic that these Oscars will turn the global spotlight on musicians, technicians and talent from Bollywood.

Bollywood filmmaker Rakeysh Mehra hopes the film will inspire talent to cross borders.

"I hope we see a lot of kind of coming together of various talents from all over the world, a lot of amalgamation and kind of collaborations, whether they are directors or technicians from out west coming here to make Indian stories or whether it is technicians and directors from here going out West to make world stories," Mehra said.

Although the spotlight remained on Slumdog Millionaire, some people noticed that another Indian story won recognition at the Oscars. American filmmaker Megan Mylan's short film documentary Smile Pinki is the story of a poor Indian village girl, who was ostracized because of her cleft lip, until surgery organized by a social worker transformed her life by making her a "normal girl".

Like Slumdog Millionaire it is a story of hope and triumph, rooted in the poverty that is widespread in India. Some critics have complained that such stories reinforce Western stereotypes about India.

But, for much of the country, the Oscar ceremony brought a rush of pride. Indians have only won two previous Oscars - one in 1982 for costume designer Bhanu Athaiya and a lifetime achievement award in 1992 for filmmaker Satyajit Ray. And, seeing stories about India and many Indians at the center stage of Hollywood's red carpet were moments to relish.

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