It was the little film that could. Slumdog Millionaire, directed by Danny Boyle from a screenplay by Simon Beaufoy, was made on a budget reputed to be $15 million, a tenth of that spent on its main rival, the Goliath to its David, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Its cast, though it included actors such as Irrfan Khan and Anil Kapoor well known to Indian film-goers, would have been utterly unfamiliar to most Academy voters. It even featured – most absurd of propositions! – dialogue that was in Hindi.
And yet, after its initial release on just a handful of screens on America’s East Coast, it became a word-of-mouth sensation, packing out movie theatres and leaving audiences wreathed in smiles.
Audiences not just in the West, but – and it’s important to emphasise this given exaggerated reports of the outrage it has stoked across Mumbai – in India itself.
Sweeping up at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs, as well as at many other awards ceremonies, it became a rags-to-riches success story almost on a par with the one it depicted so vividly.
At the end of last night the stage of the Kodak Theater in Hollywood became a temporary colony as cast, crew and friends stepped up to accept mainstream cinema’s most-coveted prize: the Academy Award for Best Picture.
This, of course, was on top of the gongs it picked up earlier in the evening: Danny Boyle for Director, Simon Beaufoy for Screenplay, AR Rahman for Original Score and Original Song, Chris Dickens for Editing, and Anthony Dod Mantle for Cinematography.
How great to see Kapoor punching the air with happiness. How wonderful to see young Dev Patel enjoying the immensity of his achievement. Both, no doubt, would have agreed with Rahman who claimed that Slumdog Millionaire celebrated the "power of hope in our lives".
It’s possible to speculate that the film’s popularity is not only down to its dynamic, affirming synthesis of storytelling, editing and sound, but the way it chimed with the language of ‘hope’ used by Barack Obama. Dark times breed a desire for uplifting movies.
It may be that in the weeks and months to come the British public will get tired of Slumdog overkill. The originality of the film, like that of Beaufoy’s previous smash The Full Monty, may be obscured by uninspired, copy-cat knock-offs. Now though is a time for celebration: for once, it’s the little guys that get the big prize.
The Daily Telegraph