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– . – A Lotus from the Mud: The rise of the slumdog millionaires

 

A Lotus from the Mud: The rise of the slumdog millionaires

To say that Danny Boyle’s film SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE is a success is somewhat of an understatement. As of March 1 it has won 72 awards, including (and this sounds like the chorus to a well-known Christmas carol) eight Academy Awards®, seven BAFTA masks, five Critics Choice, four Golden Globes and three BIFAs, with Best Picture, Best Director, Best Score, Best Screenplay and Best Cinematography consistently showing up. It has also grossed just under US $190 million worldwide. Not bad for a movie that cost $15 million, is in Hindi for a good part, and almost never saw the light of day, or should I say the darkness of a cinema. 

It was back in the summer of 2006 that Danny Boyle was first approached by Celador Films and Film4 to read Simon Beaufoy’s screen adaptation of Q&A by Vikas Swarup, the story of a poor, young man from the slums of Mumbai who is accused of cheating as he is about to become the country’s biggest quiz show winner. With an initial budget of US $15 million, Celador (who own the rights to the TV show Who Wants to be a Millionaire?) went looking for a distributor to put some money in, with Warner Independent Pictures outbidding Fox Searchlight Pictures to the tune of US $5 million.

The formula for making a successful film is not something that can be manufactured. Hollywood studios are constantly trying, like alchemists wanting to turn dross into gold, with the screenwriting gurus selling their own formulas like snake-oil hawkers. The formula is actually far more esoteric, relying more on Muses, Fates and planetary alignments (otherwise known as timing). It seems that Mumbadevi, the goddess after whom Mumbai was named, must have been smiling on Danny and his cast and crew.  Boyle was an ideal choice for this movie. Having just come off the huge sci-fi effects movie SUNSHINE, it was a chance for him to get back to the down-and-dirty filmmaking of TRAINSPOTTING, the hot, sweaty locations of THE BEACH, and the working with children of MILLIONS—plus he has a knack of working with relatively unknown actors.

Having Anthony Dod Mantle on board as cinematographer was a no brainer. After making a name for himself in Denmark shooting for the Dogme 95 directors, the British-born lenser had a reputation as the go-to man for digital shooting. After working with Danny on a couple of TV movies, in 2001 they made 28 DAYS LATER… using a Canon XL1, essentially an upmarket consumer MiniDV camera. It was Dod Mantle’s camera work that defined that movie as much as the “rage” victims. His almost documentary-style shooting, with its Dogme roots, was just what SLUMDOG needed.

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