Could Danny Boyle’s blockbuster spark wider interest in the West for Bollywood fare?
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4 Mar 2009 - 10:17 AM  UPDATED 6 Nov 2012 - 10:33 PM

The Oscars for Slumdog Millionaire composer A.R. Rahman and sound mixer Resul Pookutty were rightly celebrated across India and have given a much-needed morale boost for Bollywood.

2008 was a dismal year for the Indian film industry, yielding just six hits out of 127 releases and losses of more that $100 million, according to the Indo-Asian News Service. The financial crisis has resulted in cutbacks in production and marketing budgets and some stars were asked to accept lower salaries. Ronnie Screwvala, CEO of entertainment giant UTV Software Communications, predicted 30 -40 percent of the films already completed won't be released this year due to lack of funding. Rajesh Jain, head of media and entertainment at KPMG Advisory, told Reuters the industry could even see "de-growth" in 2009.

Perhaps over-optimistically, some executives hope Slumdog Millionaire's eight Oscars will help make audiences in West more receptive to Bollywood fare. “This win and publicity definitely adds more charm and variety in brand India. More than Indian films having a global audience, the Oscars will open doors to Indian technicians such as Resul Pookutty, and to Rahman's music,” Madhukar Kamath, Managing Director and CEO of Mudra Communications, told Hindu Business Line.

Previously, only two other Indians had brought gold statuettes home to India: Gandhi costume designer Bhanu Athaiya won in1983 and director Satyajit Ray collected an honorary prize for contribution to world cinema in 1992.

UTV Communications tried to piggyback Slumdog's success by launching Rakesh Omprakash Mehra's Delhi 6 (pictured) at 90 theatres in the US on the Oscars weekend. It stars Abhishek Bachchan as an American-born guy who takes his ailing grandmother back to her old neighbourhood in Delhi and falls in love with the city and a gorgeous neighbour (Sonam Kapoor).

The movie, for which A.R. Rahman composed the music, generated a healthy per screen average of nearly $US6,700 in its debut, but collapsed in the second weekend, ringing up $809,000 in 10 days.

Many US critics gave the film a warm reception, typified by Village Voice's Michelle Orange who declared that while “Delhi 6 attempts to address the generational, economic, and religious problems dividing modern India, it does so in an unapologetically broad, whacked-out way, with each of Bollywood's four food groups (corn, cheese, treacle and nuts) present and accounted for. Which is to say that it's pretty much irresistible and…represents the enigmatic India of today as well as anything ever could.”

Hollywood website About.com said: “Maybe the runaway success of Slumdog Millionaire will inspire Western audiences to sample more authentic Bollywood fare. With its first-rate music, world-class stars, and postcard-ready views of India, Delhi 6 presents an especially welcoming option.”

Let's just hope Slumdog doesn't inspire a bunch of inferior knock-offs.