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Almost a clean sweep for Slumdog
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 24 - 02 - 2009

Hollywood has met Bollywood at the Academy Awards, and the makers of Oscar champ “Slumdog Millionaire” hope it's a sign of future melding between the US dream factory with its counterparts in India and elsewhere in the world.
A tale of hope amid adversity and squalor in Mumbai, “Slumdog Millionaire” came away with eight Oscars, including best picture and director for Danny Boyle.
In just one night, Indian film composer A.R. Rahman equaled the number of Oscars his fellow Indians had taken home during the first 80 years of the Academy Awards.
The 43-year-old composer, hailed in India as the Mozart of Madras, won Oscars Sunday for best original score and song, both from the movie “Slumdog Millionaire.”
Other Indians to collect Oscar gold before him were costume designer Bhanu Athaiya, honored for “Gandhi” in 1982, and arthouse director Satyajit Ray, who received a lifetime achievement award in 1992.
“I was excited and terrified,” the soft-spoken Rahman said as he collected his first Oscar, for best original score.
“The last time I felt like that was during my marriage.”
He recalled a famous phrase of Hindi film dialogue, “I Have Nothing But I Have a Mother” as he thanked his mother Kareema Begum, who made the trip from Chennai, India, to join the audience at the Kodak Theater.
He then added a phrase in the Tamil language, meaning “God is great,” which he normally says after receiving an award.
Instead of leaving the stage like other Oscar recipients, Rahman then sang his two Oscar-nominated songs, “O ...Saya” and “Jai Ho,” backed by dancers and an international drum line with Indian, African, Japanese and Chinese percussionists.
Then he picked up the best song Oscar for “Jai Ho,” the title of which translates in English to “Be Victorious.”
Sean Penn won his second best-actor Oscar, this one for playing slain gay-rights pioneer Harvey Milk in “Milk,” while Kate Winslet took best actress for “The Reader,” in which she plays a former concentration camp guard coming to terms with the ignorance that let her heedlessly participate in Nazi atrocities.
Penn had harsh words for protesters outside the Oscars holding anti-gay signs.
“I'd tell them to turn in their hate card and find their better self,” Penn said. “I think that these are largely taught limitations and ignorances, this kind of thing. It's really sad in a way, because it's a demonstration of such cowardice, emotional cowardice, to be so afraid of extending the same rights to your fellow man as you'd want for yourself.”
As expected, Heath Ledger became just the second performer to win an Oscar posthumously, receiving the supporting-actor award for the menace and mayhem he wreaks as Batman villain the Joker in “The Dark Knight.” Penelope Cruz was the first Spanish actress to win an Oscar with her supporting prize as a volatile artist in a three-way romance in Woody Allen's “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.”
Ledger's award was accepted by his parents and sister on behalf of the 3-year-old daughter he had with actress Michelle Williams. The win came 13 months after Ledger died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs on Oscar nominations day last year.
His sister, Kate Ledger, said backstage that her brother sensed he was creating something special with “The Dark Knight.”
“Slumdog Millionaire” started as an unlikely candidate for the sort of industry and audience recognition it has garnered, presenting a cast of unknowns and a Dickensian tale of an Indian orphan rising above his street-urchin roots.
“This country has changed, from the moment we started making the film to the moment it was released,” “Slumdog” producer Christian Colson said. “I think America is cool again, for the first time in my lifetime. ... I think this is a symptom of how it's beginning to embrace a more-globalized view of the world.”
“Slumdog Millionaire” has all the trademark elements of Boyle: raw and relentless energy, rich visual whimsy, a sense of childlike yearning, and a seamless mix of the harrowing and hilarious.
“Slumdog” writer Simon Beaufoy, who won the adapted-screenplay Oscar, said the film clicked with audiences stung by the recession and the realization that “this money thing, it's been shown to be a real false idol.”
Oscar organizers shook things up a bit after last year's show drew the lowest TV ratings ever. Song-and-dance man Hugh Jackman was host instead of the usual standup comedian, and he kept the show to three and a half hours, relatively brisk for a ceremony that has topped four hours some years.
Winslet finally walked off with an Oscar after five previous losses. While Winslet said she had been practicing Oscar speeches since childhood, holding a shampoo bottle instead of a golden statuette, she still felt “like a little girl from Reading,” her hometown in England.


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