Tuesday, February 24, 2009
A few months ago, the American Film Institute premiered "Slumdog Millionaire" at a splashy red carpet event at the Arclight Theatre in Hollywood.
Back then, Slumdog was an unknown commodity.
After all, the film wasn't released yet around the country.
In addition, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences had yet to single out the feature as a potential Oscar-winner.
Needless to say, when the cast breezed down the carpet that starry night, few in the press corps were familiar with the actors inhabiting the roles on the silver screen - or even the subject matter of the now-celebrated feature.
In view of this - the paparazzi and film critics alike - were inclined to glom onto Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy for quotes.
Then, shortly after the film was released - and it began to receive a multitude of accolades across the board - some criticized Boyle for focusing on an impoverished aspect of India that wasn't too flattering.
Many people in Mumbai, for instance, protested about the gritty portrayal of India - and in particular - the title.
Poor residents in the region of Mumbai perceived "Slumdog" as a derogatory term which demeaned them.
In retrospect - a question I put to Mr. Boyd (an affable down-to-earth man) that glittering night - appears to have been appropriate.
"The script came to me," he noted, when I asked how he came to choose the project.
"I was knocked out by the material when I read it," he beamed.
The opportunity to shoot the feature on location in India was a big plus for Mr. Boyle, too.
When Simon Beaufoy strolled up - all charm and wit - I was inclined to note right off-the-bat that I was a big fan of "Full Monty".
I was the picture of diplomacy; after all, I hadn't screened "Slumdog" yet, and was at loss to discuss slumdog particulars!
I put forth the notion that the titillating scene casting the spotlight on the studly - um - attributes of the rough-around-the-edges dudes as they stripped buck-naked in "Monty" was a ploy to rustle up some controversy - and likewise - sell a few theatre tickets.
"It was a metaphor," he stated matter-of-fact.
"It was all about humiliation."
The out-of-work men featured in the off-beat English film, if you recall, put on a strip-show to raise much-needed funds to make ends meet.
Frankly, I thought the scene was liberating, not humbling at all.
One of the character actors in Slumdog on hand at the Arclight (who is firmly established as a lead actor in the "Bollywood" film industry) stopped to chat.
I learned, at this juncture, that he has played opposite - Aishwarya Rai - an actress many tout as the most beautiful woman in the world.
"My readers would probably like to know what it was like to work with Ms. Rai. Did you have any intimate love scenes with her?"
"No, unfortunately," he laughed.
"She is a lovely woman and very professional," he added
When I asked if it was difficult to break into acting in Bollywood, he confessed that it was just as tough making it overseas in India in the medium, as it is for any young hopeful beating the pavement in Hollywood trying to land an acting job.
At first glance, Dev Patel (an an actor in Slumdog) was innocent-looking.
Tall - and suprisingly poised for his age - he was eager to discuss his role with the press.
But, it was evident from the get-go, that all the supporting players were a little overwhelmed by the glitzy red carpet experience.
And, the magic doesn't appear to have faded in the least in recent days
Slumdog has snatched up so many Oscars, you have to wonder, what next?
An adaptation for Television?
News at 11!