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India Celebrates 'Slumdog' Oscars


India is celebrating the Academy Award victories of two movies filmed in the country, the worldwide hit "Slumdog Millionaire" and a short documentary about a girl with a cleft lip.

In Dharavi, the Mumbai slum where the rags-to-riches story "Slumdog Millionaire" was set and filmed, residents cheered around TV sets each time the film took one of its eight Oscars, including best picture. Some people broke into Bollywood-type dance numbers in the streets.

Many Indians were especially proud of the film's composer A.R. Rahman, who won the award for best score and shared the prize for best song with lyricist Gulzar (EDS: one name) for the tune "Jai Ho."

Meanwhile, there were more celebrations in a village in northern India when another film, "Smile Pinki," won the Academy Award for best short documentary. The film centers on a six-year-old village girl (in Uttar Pradesh state) who was ostracized because of her cleft lip until it was corrected through surgery.

Indian news agencies say hundreds of villagers poured out of their homes to congratulate the girl, Pinki Sonkar, who they once shunned.

Both films have been criticized in some quarters for reinforcing negative stereotypes of India, but their Oscar victories have been warmly welcomed. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh congratulated the winners, saying they had "done India proud."

One Bollywood filmmaker, Rakeysh Mehra, expressed hope that the success of "Slumdog Millionaire" will lead to more collaboration between members of the Indian and western film industries.

"Slumdog Millionaire" follows the story of a poor, brutalized orphan boy in Mumbai who goes on to win the Indian version of the television game show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" in an attempt to gain the attention of his childhood love.

Some of the film's young cast members traveled from the slums of Mumbai to Hollywood for the awards ceremony.

British director Danny Boyle took top honors for his work on the film. Writer Simon Beaufoy took top honors for best adapted screenplay. The script is based on the book "Q and A" by Indian author and diplomat Vikas Swarup.

"Slumdog Millionaire" also won for best cinematography, best sound mixing and best film editing.

Our Kolkata stringer Pramashish Ghosh Roy has more on it.

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