India shines at Oscars with multiple awards (Afternoon Lead)

February 23rd, 2009 - 4:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Slumdog MillionaireLos Angeles/Mumbai, Feb 23 (IANS) It was India’s day at the Oscars with Indian music, Indian song and Indian colours sweeping the Academy Awards as composer A.R. Rahman, lyricist Gulzar and sound designer Resul Pookutty made history with three Oscars for the Mumbai-based “Slumdog Millionaire” that won eight of its 10 nominations.
India dominated the mind as British director Danny Boyle’s hit film won the Oscars for best picture and best director at the annual Academy Awards ceremony at Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles but also for six others, including two for Rahman who won for best original score and best original song with Gulzar.

While Pookutty shared the award with two others for best sound mixing, the film also won best adapted screenplay, best cinematography and best editing awards.

Only Glenn Freemantle and Tom Sayers lost out in the sound editing category to Richard King for “The Dark Knight”.

“Slumdog” has been the winter’s surprise winner, racking up victories at practically every juncture. The Golden Globes gave “Slumdog” its top award; so did the Producers Guild, the Writers Guild, the Directors Guild and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

As the film, based on a book by Indian diplomat Vikas Swarup, reached the pinnacle of its success Sunday night, it was also the climactic end to an awards story that some say is as improbable as the film itself about an 18-year-old orphan from a Mumbai slum who goes on to win a staggering Rs.20 million ($410,000) on India’s “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” game show.

Rahman, the fourth Indian to win the golden statuette after Bhanu Athaiya for costume designing in 1982, Satyajit Ray for lifetime achievement in 1992 and Pookutty, who picked up his award before him, also became the first Indian to perform at the glittering ceremony watched worldwide by millions.

Indian drums resounded through the vast Kodak Theatre and dancers picked up on the beat as Rahman sang “O Saya” and “Jai Ho” - his two songs shortlisted for the best original song award.

“God is great!” Rahman exclaimed in Tamil as he picked up the awards, saying he was as excited and terrified before coming here as he was at his marriage.

“It is not an award, but history being handed over to me,” said Pookutty, who shared the Oscar with Ian Tapp and Richard Pryke, and dedicated his award to his country.

Simon Beaufoy, who won the Oscar for adapted screenplay, complimented Indian diplomat Swarup on whose novel “Q and A” the film is based. “We would not be here without Vikas Swarup,” he said.

But the 81st Academy Awards was not just about “Slumdog Millionaire”.

The India-themed documentary “Smile Pinki” by American filmmaker Megan Mylan, a heartwarming tale of a poor village girl called Pinki whose cleft lip made her a social outcast till her life changed after a meeting with a social worker, picked up an Oscar for best short documentary.

The evening climaxed with the entire cast and crew up with producer Christian Colson as he accepted the best picture award. Also up on stage were Azharuddin and Rubina, who played key roles in the movie and travelled the long distance from their homes in a Mumbai slum to the star-studded event.

And back home in the Garib Nagar slum, Azharuddin’s father said, his eyes welling up with tears: “Flowers have bloomed from the dirty gutters of Mumbai.”

Rahman’s sister Reihana said from Chennai: “Once he returns, Rahman and I and the rest of the family will go on thanksgiving pilgrimages to several dargahs (Muslim shrines) to express our gratitude to god for blessing us so mercifully and in such magnitude. We hope this means more Hollywood offers for Rahman after this.”

Pookutty told IANS: “I simply feel elated. I can’t put my feelings into words! It is the highest recognition any film technician can ever achieve. To be the first from India to be recognised by my peers in the Academy in its 80-year history is a very, very fulfilling feeling.”

In his home in Vilakupara village of Kerala, the mood was celebratory — and tearful too - as people crowded around a TV set in front of his house.

“We decided to place a TV in front of our home because since last evening the mood was building up,” said Byju P.T., the Oscar winner’s elder brother.

In Uttar Pradesh, too, little Pinki was the toast of her village Rampur Dabai.

“It’s an honour for all of us that a poor girl has put this village on the international map,” village head Pradeep Vishwakarma told IANS on telephone.

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