From the teeming neighborhoods of Mumbai to the glitter of Hollywood: a rags-to-riches romance has won Hollywood's top annual honors, a total of eight Academy Awards including Best Picture of the year. Critics say Slumdog Millionaire is a celebration of life.
It's the Indian version of the world-famous quiz show and the nation is transfixed by the amazing success of the shy young contestant Jamal.
But how could a teenager who grew up in the teeming slums, who never had a formal education, who works serving tea to the operators in a Mumbai call center …how could he know the answers to all those questions ranging from sports records to literary masterpieces?
Simon Beaufoy won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire. He started with the novel "Q and A" by Indian author Vikas Swarup; but backstage at the Academy Awards Beaufoy explained the characters took on a vibrant new destiny after he spent time in Mumbai.
"It was a response to the place, really," Beaufoy says. "Mumbai is a very operatic, melodramatic place. In one blink of an eye you can see the most beautiful woman walk past you in a sari followed by a person with no arms or legs on a skateboard …in one single movement …and it's a place of massive extremes. I just responded to that and started writing with these kind of extremes because it seemed appropriate to the place."
Danny Boyle …now 'Oscar-winner Danny Boyle' …picked up the Academy Award as Best Director; and in his post-Oscar comments, Boyle praised Beaufoy's exquisitely layered screenplay.
"What I loved about his script is that, at the beginning, the spine of the story appears to be the game show; but actually what happens - and this is different than the novel - is that, of course, as you peel back the spine there is another spine underneath which is a love story which is much stronger than a television show," Boyle says. "It is much deeper and more profound and more recognizable and more lovable …more timeless than a game show. I love that about it and it's a chance to get lost in romance and we all want to get lost in romance if we get a chance. If we can find a reason to do it - and to disguise it at the same time - it's great."
Screenwriter Beaufoy added that destiny brought an unexpected relevance to help Slumdog Millionaire connect with film audiences and awards voters.
"I think it's come out at a very interesting time and none of us could have anticipated that," Beaufoy says. "It's come out at a time when the value of money, which has been raised to this extraordinary height, is suddenly shown to be a kind of very shallow thing. The financial markets are crashing around the world and a film comes out that is ostensibly about being a millionaire and actually it's a film that says there are more important things than money: there's love and faith and your family. That struck a chord with people, I think, right now in an era when we've suddenly turned around and gone 'wait a minute, this money thing …it's been shown to be a real false idol.' So the timing of when this film came out had a tremendous impact, I think."
Slumdog Millionaire triumphed over much larger-scale films that were far more expensive to make. Oscars in hand, director and co-producer Danny Boyle said he hopes that sends a message to aspiring moviemakers.
"One of the lovely things about this evening that the Academy has given us is that it's a triumph for this kind of film," Boyle says. "It is independent-minded and it's working against the odds in a way …and it's very important to keep it because that's where everybody starts: in those small, independent movies. You learn the business, you learn your craft, and you learn what you're doing. So it's very, very important."
Slumdog Millionaire's slew of Oscars included the awards for cinematography, film editing and sound mixing as well as best original score and original song - "Jai Ho" - both written by Indian composer A.R. Rahman.