MUMBAI (Reuters) - “Slumdog Millionaire” was meant to capture Mumbai’s “lust for life,” director Danny Boyle said on Tuesday, reacting to criticism that the film glamorized poverty in India.
The cast and crew of the Oscar hopeful returned to the bustling financial hub on Tuesday in the run-up to the Indian premiere of the critically acclaimed film, a rags-to-riches story of a boy competing on a TV gameshow.
“The thing that I wanted people to take away from the film was ... this breathtaking, breathtaking resilience of people and the joy of people despite their circumstances, that lust for life,” the British director said at a press conference.
“What we tried to do in the film was include as much of the city as possible,” he said.
About half of Mumbai’s 17 million people are homeless, and many of those live on the streets or in slums that lack even basic facilities such as running water and toilets.
The unpaved alleys, open sewers and tiny shacks of a teeming Mumbai slum are faithfully reproduced in the film, which swept the Golden Globe awards this month.
But some Indian newspapers and TV channels have criticized Boyle for romanticizing slums and peddling such grim realities as begging rackets, prostitution and crime as “Indian exotica.”
The film has sparked a debate on whether such “poverty porn” reinforces Western stereotypes about the country.
"If SM (Slumdog) projects India as Third World dirty underbelly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots, let it be known that a murky underbelly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations," Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan, arguably India's biggest superstar, wrote on his blog (bigb.bigadda.com) last week.
“Slumdog Millionaire” opens in Indian cinemas on January 23, a day after this year’s Oscar nominations are revealed.
But Boyle, who made the acclaimed “Trainspotting” in 1996, is not holding out for a sweep at the Academy Awards.
“You can’t expect anything really,” he said.
Writing by Tony Tharakan; Editing by Louise Ireland and Matthias Williams