'Salaam' slum children of Mumbai: Loveleen

Tuesday, 13 January 2009 - 2:53am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna
I was the casting director before Danny Boyle chose me to be the India co-director. He is an egoless man, ready to share space with people he trusts.

Loveleen Tandon, India co-director of Slumdog Millionaire
I was the casting director before Danny Boyle chose me to be the India co-director. He is an egoless man, ready to share space with people he trusts.

I specially remember shooting at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST). We had great fun. We shot the dance sequence inside the station building. You know how difficult it is to get permission for such a shot.

We managed to get the permission to shoot at night, during the hours the trains don’t ply. We had a three-day schedule to shoot the dance sequence with Dev Patel and Frieda Pinto. We also managed to get permission to shoot some crucial scenes during daytime at the CST. It gave the film lots of city flavour.

We also shot outside the CST. There is a magazine stall, right opposite the heritage building, where we used to take shelter. We wanted to film the real Mumbai - not to take stageshots with fake people. Whenever there was a red light, we used to rush out, do some shooting and hurry back to the stall.

We ensured that we didn’t create any commotion. But, one day, we decided to bring in the child artistes to dance in the video. They had no preparation and were merely imitating the steps I was doing, but they were great. In fact, they are the soul of the film. The shots I have done with them are incredible.

Choosing them was such a big job for me. We wanted to cast children who lived in slums. We held the selection process in Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Jaipur and Kolkata.
Danny had initially wanted to make the film completely in English. But getting hold of slum children who could speak English was next to impossible.

We did not want to cast middle-class children from English medium schools because they could not have matched the raw energy of the slum children.

I suggested to Danny that we should shoot this slum portion in Hindi and he agreed. I was very excited to handle the auditions, and interviewed around 100 kids before selecting the cast. I got all of them from the slums, and they have done a great job. Their spontaneity and passion made the film such a grand success.

I am happy that the film has won four awards at the Golden Globe. Also, I am a little sad as I was the only one who was not present at the event. I am hoping that we get many nominations at the Oscars. Maybe, I could go there and share the pride of being a part of the great movie we made. Watch out Oscars, here we come.
As told to Prithwish Ganguly




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