Danny Boyle defends 'Slumdog' in Mumbai

Director says film portrays a 'breathtaking resilience'

MUMBAI -- "Slumdog Millionaire" was meant to capture Mumbai's "lust for life," director Danny Boyle said Tuesday, reacting to criticism that the film glamorized poverty in India.

The cast and crew of the Oscar hopeful was back in the bustling financial hub for the run-up to the Indian premiere of the critically acclaimed film, a rags-to-riches story of a boy competing on a TV game show.

"The thing that I wanted people to take away from the film was ... this breathtaking, breathtaking resilience of people and the joy of people despite their circumstances -- that lust for life," the British director said at a news conference.

"What we tried to do in the film was include as much of the city as possible," he said.

About half of Mumbai's 17 million are homeless, and many of those live on the streets or in slums that lack even basic facilities such as running water and toilets. The unpaved alleys, open sewers and tiny shacks of a teeming Mumbai slum are faithfully reproduced in the film, which topped the Golden Globes this month.

But some Indian newspapers and TV channels have criticized Boyle for romanticizing slums and peddling such grim realities as begging rackets, prostitution and crime as "Indian exotica."

The film has sparked a debate on whether such "poverty porn" reinforces Western stereotypes about the country.

"If (Slumdog) projects India as a Third World dirty underbelly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots, let it be known that a murky underbelly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations," Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan, arguably India's biggest superstar, wrote on his blog last week.

"Slumdog Millionaire" opens in Indian cinemas Friday, the day after this year's Oscar nominations are revealed.