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'Slumdog Millionaire' gathers speed in India

It has been a hit in Indian city multiplexes since it opened last week. -AFP

Thu, Jan 29, 2009

MUMBAI (AFP) - - The Oscar-nominated film "Slumdog Millionaire" has been a hit in Indian city multiplexes since it opened here last week, but has not found favour in single-screen cinemas and small towns, analysts said.

The movie, about a lowly Mumbai teaboy who wins a popular television quizshow against the odds, went on general release across India on Friday after wowing audiences in north America and Britain.

Industry analysts said both the English version and the Hindi-language version "Slumdog Crorepati" had a slow start, but box office takings increased over the weekend through word-of-mouth recommendations.

"The film wasn't expected to take off on a flying start since pirated DVDs were easily accessible," said Vajir Singh in The Hindustan Times.

Singh said in his weekly trade column that cinemas were about a quarter full Friday. Multiplexes were about half-full Saturday, with takings picking up Sunday and on Monday's national holiday.

"Expectedly, the film hasn't drawn a favourable response in singleplexes and in small towns. Business is expected to be best in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata and Hyderabad," he added.

Tracking box office hits and misses is notoriously difficult in India, as there is no single rating system or organisation that monitors takings.

Fox Star Studios said the film took more than 2.8 million dollars in its opening weekend -- the fourth biggest for any Hollywood film released here.

Analyst Komal Nahta suggested the film's title -- which has been subject to court petitions for allegedly denigrating slum-dwellers and has sparked a debate about its portrayal of slum life -- initially put off Hindi-speaking audiences.

"A section of Hindi audiences could not understand the name of the film and that caused a bit of a dent in the business on the first day but later on it saw a steady flow of audiences," he added.

Nahta and fellow expert Taran Adarsh agreed that the film opened slowly. The latter pointed out that "Slumdog" was eclipsed by a strong opening for Bollywood horror flick "Raaz -- The Mystery Continues".

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