Kapoor hails a breakthrough for Indian film-making

Andrew Buncombe
Saturday 21 February 2009 01:00

Anil Kapoor, a star of the Oscar-nominated Slumdog Millionaire, said that if previous Indian films have had difficulty making a breakthrough in the West, that could in part reflect a lingering racism among Western audiences.

Kapoor plays the villainously smug host of the Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? in the film, which was directed by the Manchester-born Danny Boyle. He said he was delighted at the way British and American cinema-goers had responded to the multiple award-winning film.

But he said he could not explain why other films had failed to bridge the gap between Bollywood and Hollywood, in terms of audience appeal. Asked whether racism, however suppressed, may have been a factor, he told The Independent: “The thing you cannot deny is that [Western audiences] have a particular preference or whatever. But I feel that the way Americans have reacted and the way it has been accepted is to be applauded.”

Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s Oscar ceremony, for which the film has received 10 nominations, including best picture and best director, he added: “I think there was the election of [President Barack] Obama, the first black president, and then Slumdog Millionaire.

“I think people want change, and you can see change, and people are moving towards it. The thing is that the world is shrinking. Globally, I feel that Asians and Africans are going to be centre stage.”

Kapoor, 50, a veteran, award-winning Bollywood actor, dismissed the controversy that Slumdog Millionaire has created in India. Some have expressed concern that the film – directed by a foreigner – had focused on poverty and human rights abuses and shown India in a bad light.

But Kapoor said that the movie had largely been celebrated as an Indian achievement and enjoyed by audiences there. “It’s very few people who are saying that. It has died down. Today we are living in an age where the [media] like those sorts of things,” he said. “But let’s be honest, this is what makes the whole thing about our country so exciting. It’s a big democracy and everyone can say what they want.”

Kapoor’s comments came as the child actors who performed in Slumdog Millionaire were preparing to leave India for the first time and fly to Los Angeles for the Academy Awards ceremony. All nine actors who play the three main characters will attend the Oscars. They include the 10-year-old actor Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, scouted in a Mumbai shantytown for the film.

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