"Slumdog" may be too real for Indian movie audiences

MUMBAI Thu Jan 22, 2009 2:35pm IST

Danny Boyle (L), winner of the Best Director - Motion Picture award for ''Slumdog Millionaire'', poses with cast members Dev Patel (R) and Freida Pinto at the 66th annual Golden Globe awards in Beverly Hills, California January 11, 2009. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Danny Boyle (L), winner of the Best Director - Motion Picture award for ''Slumdog Millionaire'', poses with cast members Dev Patel (R) and Freida Pinto at the 66th annual Golden Globe awards in Beverly Hills, California January 11, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

MUMBAI (Reuters) - "Slumdog Millionaire" swept the Golden Globes and is generating Oscar buzz, but the film may not be as warmly received in India where it was shot and where millions live in the squalor depicted in the movie.

The film, which will be released in India next week in about 300 cinemas, won four awards at the 66th Golden Globe awards on Sunday, including one for Indian music composer AR Rahman for Best Original Score.

The win sparked a frenzy in the Indian media, which hailed Rahman as a genius, and predicted an Oscar win for the 43-year-old.

But even the global accolades and Oscar talk may not guarantee a blockbuster when the film about a Mumbai boy searching for love through a TV quiz game opens on Jan. 23.

"Indian audiences don't like watching poverty and squalor on screen. They see enough of it in their daily lives," said filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar, whose portrayal of street kids in his 2007 film 'Traffic Signal' bombed at the box office.

But the film could do well in the big cities and among young audiences, Bhandarkar said.

Young audiences will check out the film because it has wowed audiences in the West, added analyst Amod Mehra.

"It will be considered cool to watch the film," he said.

Mumbai is home to Bollywood, the world's most prolific film industry, known for its colourful sets, extravagant costumes and elaborate song-and-dance sequences.

"I don't expect that someone in a smaller town will watch this film, no matter how good it is," Mehra said.

A dubbed version in Hindi will help draw audiences, he said, adding he expected the film to do "good business, nothing more".

The distributor of the film in India, Fox Star Studios, a venture between Twentieth Century Fox and News Corp's Star, is not perturbed by dire predictions and plans a grand premiere with key cast members.

"This may be an English film, but it was made in India, and has such a Bollywoodish theme," CEO Vijay Singh said.

"It is a rags-to-riches story that talks about looking for lost love, chasing your dreams, all of which are popular themes with Indian audiences," he said.

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