"Slumdog" premieres in India amid Oscar fanfare

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Critically acclaimed “Slumdog Millionaire” held its Indian premiere in the film’s native Mumbai on Thursday night, shortly after it won 10 Oscar nominations.

A boy living on the street walks on a wall displaying publicity posters of Golden Globe award-winning film "Slumdog Millionaire" as a train goes past in Mumbai January 22, 2009. REUTERS/Arko Datta

The rags-to-riches story about a boy from one of the city’s teeming slums competing on a TV gameshow has been nominated for best director, best adapted screenplay and best picture at the Academy Awards, and seven other categories.

“The city opened its arms to us. I don’t want anyone to miss out on the debt of gratitude that we owe to this city,” said the film’s director Danny Boyle at a press conference ahead of the premiere.

A huge media fanfare greeted Bollywood stars and production company executives as they walked on the red carpet amid the sound of traditional Indian drums.

The entire cast and crew danced down the red carpet.

“Slumdog Millionaire” has already won four honors at the Golden Globes this month including best drama, and been nominated for 11 BAFTA awards.

The film’s famed music composer A.R. Rahman alone picked up three Oscar nominations.

“It’s incredible. Three for A.R. (Rahman) - you can’t beat that,” Boyle said.

But despite the international plaudits, Boyle arrived in Mumbai earlier this week to accusations by some parts of the Indian media that his film was voyeuristic “poverty porn.”

Boyle, known for his unconventional story-telling in films like “Trainspotting,” was accused of romanticizing slums and peddling begging rackets, prostitution and crime as “Indian exotica.”

“Slumdog” has sparked a debate about whether such films reinforce Western stereotypes about the country, though Boyle said he was trying to capture Mumbai’s “lust for life.”

Bollywood actor Irrfan Khan, who also starred in “Slumdog,” on Thursday said the controversy might dissuade foreign filmmakers from coming to India.

“It creates a wrong atmosphere. There are countries who give incentives to filmmakers, because when a film comes to a country, it brings money, it brings jobs,” he told Reuters.

Other Indians have leapt to the defense of “Slumdog.” For example, the cast and crew were awarded for “Global Excellence of the Year” at the NDTV news channel’s Indian of the Year awards.

Around 40 people, including slum children, held a silent protest on Thursday outside the house of one of the film’s stars, Anil Kapoor, a Reuters witness said.

They said the film’s name was derogatory and demanded it be changed. Some held roses, and one of the children carried a puppy, apparently in reference to the film’s title.

A leader of slums in eastern India’s impoverished Bihar state filed a defamation case this week against A.R. Rahman, Anil Kapoor and two others involved in the film.

“The title of the movie could have been anything like “Slumboy,” but “Slumdog” is indeed humiliating and an insult to the people living in slum areas,” Shruti Singh, the lawyer who made the case, told Reuters.

Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Tony Tharakan and Jon Boyle