Monday, February 23, 2009

Slumdog Could Bring Millions to Mumbai

"Slumdog Millionaire" which hauled in eight Oscars, including best picture, has made the city of Mumbai one of the hottest tourism destinations this spring and summer.

Oftentimes, movies make destinations popular by inspiring travelers to visit . For travelers, the fascination of viewing scenes in a film and then comparing it to what one saw in real life can lead to a sense of "been there, seen that".

According to Expedia, The top 10 Oscar destinations - in which popular Hollywood Academy award-winning movies were shot over the last four decades - include Mumbai ("Slumdog Millionaire" in 2009), Kyoto in Japan ("Memoirs of a Geisha" in 2006), South America ("Motorcycle Diaries" in 2004), New Zealand ("Lord of the Rings" in 2004), Scotland ("Braveheart" in 1995), Transylvania in Romania (Bram Stoker's "Dracula" in 1993), America (various locations related to the movie "Thelma & Louise"), Florence in Italy ("Room with a View" in 1985), Kenya ("Out of Africa" in 1986 ) and Salzburg ("The Sound of Music" in 1965).

While few in Dharavi, the sprawling Mumbai slum where much of the film was shot, had seen the Oscar awards show or the actual film, most were happy their neighborhood -- as well as Indian talent -- were at last getting some international attention.

But to be sure, some Indians have criticized the film. After all, it stars a British Indian actor and was directed by a British director. Many were also angered by the title of the film. Protesters have rallied against the use of "Slumdog" in the movie's name as derogatory against slum dwellers. In late January, a Mumbai-based welfare group for slum dwellers organized protests outside the home of Anil Kapoor, an Indian actor in the film. The protestors held up signs reading "I am not a dog" and "Poverty for Sale."

Reality Tours based in Mumbai, takes people through Dharavi, Asia's biggest slum. They spend about 3 hours touring the site, seeing the life of slum dwellers. The "highlights" of Dharavi expedition include a stop at a stall of six toilets that serves 16,000 people and a stroll alongside a river so black and septic that it oozes rather than flows. To most, the movie is all Hollywood as this trip shows things are a little darker in reality.

Although the Mumbai attacks last year projected a less positive image of the country as a tourist destination, Slumdog has helped put it back on track as a great place to visit. And if you decide to rough-it on a day tour of Dharavi, we have some luxury Mumbai hotels to use as your base camp. The Taj Mahal Palace & Tower is re-opened and damaged area will be phased in during the year and The Four Seasons Mumbai which was unscathed.

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