Slumdog Millionaire: "Jai ho" at Oscars
Rags-to-riches romance Slumdog Millionaire scooped up eight Oscars, the most of any
movie this year, including best motion picture. Among the Slumdog honours, Danny
Boyle was named best director for the often dark but ultimately hopeful tale about a
poor Indian boy who competes for love and money on a TV game show.
Slam dunk Slumdog
Hit British film 'Slumdog Millionaire' has won the top prize at the Academy Awards,
winning eight Oscars including best director and best picture. The film, set in the slums of
Mumbai, also won the ones for best
adapted screenplay, cinematography,
sound mixing, film editing, best
original score and best song. Kate
Winslet won the best actress Oscar for
'The Reader' while Sean Penn won for
his role as gay rights activist Harvey
Milk in "Milk'.
But the dazzle of the glittering awards
ceremony unarguably belonged to
'Slumdog Millionaire', the rags-to-riches tale that has enchanted audiences around the world.
A. R. Rahman became the first Indian to win two Oscars for his scintillating music in
Slumdog Millionaire which swept the Academy awards by winning eight with one going to
sound engineer Resul Pookutty. Rahman shared his second Oscar for best original song for
the film's theme number "Jai Ho" with noted lyricist Gulzar.
Rahman praised the city which inspired the book, and subsequently the film. He hailed "all
the people from Mumbai and the essence of the film, which is about optimism and the power
of hope and our lives". The achievement is perhaps best seen in perspective when we
consider that before this only two Indians had received the honour–ever. Veteran filmmaker
Satyajit Ray was awarded a lifetime achievement Oscar in 1992 and prior to that Bhanu
Athaiya won an Oscar for costume design in Richard Attenborough's Gandhi in 1983.
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And this time alone, there are three awards–and three Indians–in the honours list.
There was more good news as Smile Pinki, the tale of a Uttar Pradesh girl and her fight
against the social stigma of a cleft-lip, won the Oscar award for Best Documentary (Short).
Directed by Emmy-award winning Megan Mylan, the film was shot in Mirzapur and
Varanasi of Uttar Pradesh. So what does Slumdog's unprecedented success hold in store for
the Indian film industry.
"The resounding success of Slumdog is a nod to what Bollywood has been accused of
making mindlessly for decades on end — its escapist fare. Slumdog is as escapist as they
come, its central protagonist rising from the deep bowels of a slum to win the big ticket to
fortune, a fantasy tale where, despite abject poverty, everyone wears a smile like a badge.
More than escapism, however, it is an acknowledgement of the powerhouse of talent
available in India: superb actors (in impossible roles acted convincingly), prodigious musical
ability, great storytelling, and the potential of cinema to cross geographies and surmount the
hindrances of language and culture", says the editorial in Indian daily Business Standard.
The making of 'Slumdog Millionaire'
The movie that swept the 81st Academy Awards, almost ended
up not being made as a movie. If there was one movie that
was destined not to sweep the Oscars, surely it was Slumdog
Millionaire. It had none of the publicity budget of its rivals:
just flying Brad Pitt around the world cost its producers nearly
as much as the entire primary shooting budget of Slumdog.
There wasn't even a recognisable star for non-Indian
audiences — no Sean Penn or Angelina Jolie here.
Instead, Slumdog... had Dev Patel, a lanky, geeky-looking lad
from the Indian-inhabited London suburb of Harrow as its
male lead. And Freida Pinto, a Mumbai model in her first movie role, was picked to play his
love interest. The film was based on a book written by a part-time writer — Indian diplomat
Vikas Swarup, who made the best use of his free evenings to come up with Q & A. Finally, a
quarter of the movie is in Hindi.
The odds seemed stacked against "Slumdog...". Distributors Warner Independent, an arm of
Time Warner, folded up in May 2008, leaving the film's hapless producers considering the
graveyard option of making a direct-to-DVD movie without a full cinema release. But just
when it looked like curtains for "Slumdog", up stepped Fox Searchlight–a tiny arm of Rupert
Murdoch's News Corp. known to back the small boys - with an offer to distribute.
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Warner Independent, which had put in $5 million to distribute "Slumdog..." in North
America, thought the film could be sold to small Indian-origin communities in the US and
Canada, as well as art-house theatergoers, and hoped to gross $12 million to $16 million.
Released in November by Fox Searchlight, the movie has raked in roughly $150 million
worldwide. It was made for $13 million — a tenth of the production cost of its Hollywood
rival The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Its filmmakers came under fire in the media for allegedly not properly paying or caring for
the child actors who played slum-dwellers in the film. In response, distributors Fox
Searchlight flew the children to Sunday's Oscars ceremony in Hollywood.
Origin of the Slumdog
Vikas Swarup: Career diplomat basks in Slumdog glory
There's a strong South Block connection to 'Slumdog Millionaire' and that's Vikas Swarup.
The movie is based on Swarup's first novel, Q and A, and he is
currently India's Deputy High Commissioner to South Africa.
What inspired him to write the book? Swarup was inspired by the holein-
the-wall project, where a computer with an internet connection was
put in a Delhi slum. When the slum was revisited after a month, the
children of that slum had learnt how to use the worldwide web.
This got him fascinated and the writer in Swarup realised that there's
an innate ability in everyone to do something extraordinary, provided they are given an
opportunity. "How else do you explain children with no education at all being able to learn to
use the Internet. This shows knowledge is not just the preserve of the elite," Swarup said.
The concept of project is in itself as interesting as the story of Slumdog's success. NIIT chief
scientist Dr Sugata Mitra had carved a 'hole in the wall' that separated the NIIT premises
from the adjoining slum in Kalkaji in 1999. Through this 'hole', a freely accessible computer
was put out for use and with no prior experience, the children learnt to use the computer on
Moreover, the 'Who wants to be a Millionaire' quiz format was a huge global success, with
Amitabh Bachchan hosting Kaun Banega Crorepati in India on prime time television, when
streets used to be deserted in India. All these developments spurred Swarup to pen his first
novel. The screen adaptation of Swarup's novel is bit different. Boyle changed the title from
'Q&A' to 'Slumdog Millionaire'. The ending is also different. Danny thought the hero should
be arrested on suspicion of cheating on the penultimate question, not after he wins as Swarup
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The British producer made friends into brothers, axed Bollywood stars and Mumbai
hoodlums and left thrilling subplots on the cutting-room floor. Crucially, they changed the
lead character's name from Ram Mohammad Thomas to Jamal Malik, thereby losing
Swarup's notion that his hero would be an Indian everyman, one who sounded as though he
was Hindu, Muslim and Christian. Instead, they made Jamal a Muslim whose mother is killed
by a Hindu mob.
Swarup's conceit was that an uneducated hero becomes a contestant on 'Who Wants to be a
Millionaire?' and, through the sort of miraculous fortune, is asked a series of questions that
he can answer. Ram's success makes everyone suspicious. How can a slumdog know who
Shakespeare was? Q&A's retort is that Ram's adventures in orphanages and brothels, with
gangsters and Bollywood celebrities, have taught him the answers to each question. The
novel's seductive opening sentences are: "I have been arrested. For winning a quizshow."
Before Q&A, Swarup's last published story was written half a lifetime ago. It was called
'The Autobiography of a Donkey'. His second novel, 'Six Suspects', was published last year.
Full list of winners
Best picture: 'Slumdog Millionaire'
Best director: Danny Boyle for 'Slumdog Millionaire
Best actor: Sean Penn for 'Milk'
Best actress: Kate Winslet for 'The Reader'
Best supporting actor: Heath Ledger for 'The Dark Knight'
Best supporting actress: Penelope Cruz for 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona'
Best original screenplay: Dustin Lance Black for 'Milk'
Best adapted screenplay: Simon Beaufoy for 'Slumdog Millionaire'
Best animated feature film: 'Wall-E'
Best animated short film: 'La Maison en Petits Cubes'
Best foreign language film: 'Departures–Japan'
Best documentary feature: 'Man on Wire'
Best documentary short subject: 'Smile Pinki'
Art direction: Donald Graham Burt and Victor J. Zolfo for 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'
Costume design: Michael O'Conner for 'The Duchess'
Make-up: Greg Cannom for 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'
Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle for 'Slumdog Millionaire'
Best live action short film: 'Spielzeugland' (Toyland)
Visual effects: 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'
Sound editing: Richard King for 'The Dark Knight'
Sound mixing: Resul Pookutty for 'Slumdog Millionaire'
Film editing: Chris Dickens for 'Slumdog Millionaire'
Best original score: AR Rahman for 'Slumdog Millionaire'
Best original song: Gulzar for 'Jai Ho–Slumdog Millionaire'
Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award: Jerry Lewis
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When the first Academy Awards were handed out on May 16, 1929, movies had just begun to talk. The
best actress and actor awards went to Janet Gaynor for "Seventh Heaven" and Emil Jannings for "The
The Warner Bros. film "The Jazz Singer" was honored with a special award as the "pioneering
outstanding talking picture, which has revolutionized the industry." The Academy had ruled that it was
ineligible for competition for best picture because it was thought it would be unfair to let sound films
compete with silents.
The 1959 epic "Ben Hur" set an Academy Award record by winning 11 Oscars, a benchmark matched
nearly four decades later by the 1997 blockbuster "Titanic," which reaped 11 awards from 12
nominations. 2003 movie "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" also won 11 Oscars from 11
U.S. actress Meryl Streep holds the record for most acting nominations, 15 including for the 2008 movie
"Doubt," and she has won twice. Katharine Hepburn earned 12 nominations but won four times. Ingrid
Bergman is next with three Oscars. Jack Nicholson is the most nominated male star with 12
nominations and three wins. Walter Brennan also won three, but from only four nominations.
Murali is highest wicket taker in ODIs as well as tests
The spinner is harder than ever for batsmen to read
Muttiah Muralitharan became the highest wicket-taker in One-Day International cricket at the
Premadasa Stadium, Colombo on Feb 06, 2009. The Sri Lankan is already the leading
wicket-taker in Test cricket with 769 scalps.
Muralitharan surpassed former Pakistan paceman Wasim Akram's ODI mark of 502 wickets
when he had Gautam Gambhir caught by 'keeper Kumar Sangakkara. Nicknamed
`Motormouth' for his non-stop words and humour in the dressing room, the Lankan offspinner
is motoring past landmarks on the cricketing highway.
It is this attribute of his bowling, resilience, that former Sri Lankan coach Dav Whatmore
talks about passionately. "Muralitharan is patient, doesn't lose focus, and can come back at
any stage of the match or spells," says Whatmore.
The cricketer from Kandy, who began as a paceman, has adapted remarkably well to all
forms of the game. He brings about subtle changes in his bowling, uses the width and the
depth of his crease to flummox batsmen. His control over the extent of spin he puts on his
deliveries beguiles the best of batsmen. The flight and the natural dip in his bowling pose
more challenges to the batsmen. Muralitharan is hard to read, varies his trajectory and speed
cleverly. The 36-year-old Muralitharan achieved his ODI feat in 328 matches while Akram
needed 356 games to scalp 502 batsmen. The Sri Lankan's feat is remarkable in the era of big
bats and smaller boundaries.
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The significance of Muralitharan's achievement is reflected in the fact that the next spinner in
the list of top wicket-takers in the ODIs is India's Anil Kumble with 337. Interestingly,
Muralitharan began his ODI career against India at the same venue – Premadasa Stadium – in
1993. His returns of 10-0-38-1 were impressive for a debutant. Praveen Amre was his first
Ceat award for Wasim Jaffer
Lifetime achievement award went to batsman late Ashok Mankad
Mumbai skipper Wasim Jaffer was declared the 'Ceat India Cricketer of the year 2008-09'.
Dhawal Kulkarni was declared 'India bowler of the year' while Cheteshwar Pujara was
declared 'India batsman of the year'. The Ceat cricket rating for domestic competition was
instituted three years ago. Jaffer scored 1260 runs in 10 Ranji Trophy matches at 84.00 with
four centuries including a 301 against Saurashtra in the Ranji Trophy semifinal at Chennai,
five half centuries and also played a significant role in Mumbai winning the National
championship for the 38th time. He received a trophy and Rs. 2 lakh from Harsh Goenka,
Mumbai seamer Dhawal Kulkarni (42 wickets at 19.35 in nine matches) was declared the
'India bowler of the year' and Saurashtra's prolific run-getter Cheteshwar Pujara (906 runs at
82.36 with four centuries) was declared the 'India batsman of the year'. Kulkarni and Pujara
received Rs. 1 lakh each. Left-arm seamer Saurav Netravalkar, Mumbai's successful bowler
in the Cooch Behar tournament was adjudged the 'India under-19 cricketer of the year', the
prize being Rs. 1 lakh. Late Ashok Mankad was selected for the Lifetime achievement award.
Financial meltdown update: Obama's package & the row over bankers' bonuses
While the amount earmarked for the stimulus bill is
not the problem the way Obama's administration
intends to spends it has invited sharp criticism
from experts and accusations of partisanship from
political rivals. Another contentious issue is the
bonus banks surviving on govt bailout funds intend
to dole out. Experts advocate a change in the pay
structure rather than an across the board ceiling on
Barrack Obama Tim Geithner
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Obama's $789 billion stimulus package
Barrack Obama's $789 billion stimulus bill was passed by the US Congress recently. The
President outlined a plan for fixing the financial mess engulfing the US economy.
Treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, unveiled the broad plan in the Congress. It was eagerly
awaited as a spark of hope in the world's biggest economy could potentially have broken the
spiral of uncertainty and gloom that is gripping investors, producers and consumers across the
Experts are satisfied with the amount of money earmarked but are disappointed with the
nitty-gritty of the rescue plan. The plan became a battleground for Republican and the
Democrats. The plan that should have had broad support from both parties became a divisive
partisan battle. Geithner's financial-rescue blueprint was touted as a bold departure from the
incrementalism and uncertainty that had plagued the Bush administration's Wall Street fixes.
Experts aver that it looked similar to former President Bush's timid efforts to rescue the
economy. Despite talk of trillion-dollar sums, stock markets nosedived reflecting investors'
lack of trust in the efficacy of the plan. The plan has clearly failed to boost confidence.
The fiscal stimulus plan has some obvious flaws. Too much of the boost to demand is likely
to occur only in 2010 and beyond. The compromise bill seems to
be giving priority to pet projects dear to Democrat lawmakers'.
Experts fear this will lower the efficiency of the spending. The
"Buy American" clause is another worry. It sounds protectionist
and sends wrong signals to trading partners.
Inadequacy of the financial rescue plan is regrettable. Fiscal
stimulus cannot create a lasting economic recovery in a country
with a broken financial system. The lesson of big banking busts,
such as Japan's in the 1990s, is that debt-laden balance-sheets must
be restructured and troubled banks fixed before real recoveries can
take off. History also suggests that countries which address their
banking crises quickly and creatively (as Sweden did in the early 1990s) do better than those
that dither. This is expensive and painful, but cautious, penny-pinching governments end up
paying more than those that tread boldly.
Banks are in deep mess
By any recent historical standards America's banking bust is big. The scale of troubled loans
and the estimates of likely losses—which are now routinely put at over $2 trillion—suggest
many of the country's biggest banks may be insolvent.
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Their balance-sheets are clogged by hundreds of billions of dollars of "toxic" assets—the
illiquid, complex and hard-to-price detritus of the mortgage bust, as well as growing numbers
of non-housing loans that are souring thanks to the failing economy.
However banks' balance-sheets are only one component of the credit bust. Most of the
tightness of credit is owing to the collapse of "securitisation", the packaging and selling of
bundles of debts from credit cards to mortgages.
Fixing this mess will require guts, imagination and a lot of taxpayers' money. Geithner's
roadmap fails to inspire that the Obama administration has a judicious plan to revive the
Banks' balance-sheets are clogged with toxic junk precisely because they are unwilling to sell
the bad debts at prices hedge funds and other private investors are willing to pay. For nervous
investors and worried politicians, desperate for details and prices, the "plan" was a grave
Row over bankers' bonuses
A dismal failure
Geithner's vagueness is being interpreted as a reluctance to take tough decisions. This
includes asking for more cash from the Congress, if required. Experts say more money will
surely be needed to clean up America's banks and administer the financial fix the economy
needs. Experts recommend creation of a special bank that takes over bad assets of banks and
allows them to make a fresh beginning. Government guarantees to cover losses in the "good"
banks could also boost investor sentiment.
The outbreak of anger about bankers' bonuses in times
when banks are trying to stay afloat on government
sponsored bailouts has intensified. Experts say a cap on
banker's bonuses across the board is not the appropriate
answer to the problem.
The way that many bankers are rewarded needs to
change. But bashing the industry about pay is gross
Barack Obama's blunt criticism of bonuses that have been awarded for the past year's results
and his plans to impose pay limits on senior executives at some banks may help to overcome
opposition to further bail-outs.
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Many recent instances demonstrate that the flak is not unwarranted. The Royal Bank of
Scotland, which survives on government funds, wanted to pay out £1 billion in bonuses in
spite of losing an expected £28 billion in this fiscal year. Where bonuses are guaranteed by
previously signed contracts they need to be honoured. Otherwise they should be scrapped. In
any other industry, when a company goes bankrupt, workers lose their bonus whether or not
they helped cause their company's downfall.
Other practices also need to change. Too many banks set bonus pools as a percentage of
revenue, not profit. Too few banks allocate internal capital and funding at rates that properly
reflect the risks being taken.
It would be a mistake to impose broad pay caps. A better option is to revise the structure of
pay. A prudent step would be pay bonuses in shares and pay them over longer periods.
Bonuses earned on excessive risk taking should be curtailed. In short bankers should be
rewarded for exceptional performance, not the rising tide of