Last night, we saw Slumdog Millionaire, the acclaimed Danny Boyle film. It’s a superbly told tale of a slum kid, Jamal, as he plays the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire show, and wins because the questions he is asked are each tied to his life in strange ways, and he knows their answers.
The film is shot in Mumbai and a few other Indian locations, and captures an authentic feel of India, while also using a very well-written, tight-knit screenplay and excellent, excellent editing. It takes a great story set in India, and for $15 million, turns it into a riveting film that since its opening on November 12, has already grossed $50.5 million as of January 18.
The film, of course, is in English, with a combination British and Indian production team and mostly unknown actors. I suspect, the production budget went up to $15 million because of the inclusion of Anil Kapoor in the role of the show host, Prem, and Irfan Khan as the police chief. Otherwise, I suspect, the film could have been completed for less than $7.5 million.
It was hugely satisfying to see the film on many accounts for me, not the least of which is that it uses all the “business” ingredients that I have been writing about in the Vision India 2020 series: low budget, English language, Indian context, great screenplay, great editing, and Indian-international combination production teams.
Well, here we have a great product that will likely make a legitimate run for the Foreign Language Academy Award this year.
I am sure many such films will be made in the upcoming years, and as we go along, that Indian directors, screenwriters, editors, and producers will start getting more savvy about how to leverage the commercial potential of the formula!
Update: By April 2009, and after its successful Oscar run, the film has grossed $326 million worldwide. By all accounts, a successful venture!