The stars of Slumdog: Dev Patel and Freida Pinto Photo by: Ishika Mohan / FOX Searchlight
Slumdog a Rags-to-Riches Oscar Story
In what has been referred to as "The Little Picture That Could," Slumdog Millionaire cemented its reputation as the high-achieving underdog Thursday, when it was announced that the rags-to-riches drama about a Mumbai street boy had received 10 Academy Awards nominations, second only to the 13 for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

"The thing that I wanted people to take away from the film was the joy of people despite their circumstances, that lust for life," Slumdog's British director, Danny Boyle, said in Mumbai Thursday, the very day when his film is opening in the city in which it is set.

Besides his own Oscar nomination for Best Director, Boyle's movie is up for Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay (by Simon Beaufoy), Cinematography, Film Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Original Score and two of its Original Songs: "Jai Ho" and "O … Saya" – thus capturing a spot that many thought would go to Bruce Springsteen for his Golden Globe-winning song for The Wrestler.

Not bad for a film that nearly went directly into video stores.

"It's just amazing," said leading man Dev Patel, 18. "For Slumdog Millionaire to be included in the nominations for the Oscars is a huge honor."

Oscars Beyond Imagination

Prior to making the film, Patel appeared in the British teen drama Skins, which has been shown stateside on BBC America.

"When we first began working on the film I don't think any of us ever imagined that we might end up attending the Oscars ceremony as a result," he said.

"I'm just so proud to be a part of this project, and I have been overwhelmed by the positive reaction to the film. Thank you to everyone who has supported us. I truly feel blessed."

Admitted screenwriter Simon Beaufoy: "Secretly and sometimes not so secretly, this is the nomination that floats in every screenwriter's dreams. I am fantastically happy and honored – not just for myself, but for Vikas Swarup's wonderful novel, without which I would have never started my journey to the world's Maximum City, Mumbai."

Added the film's composer, AR Rahman: "I am overjoyed by this nomination and deeply grateful that the Academy has embraced the music of this film. Slumdog Millionaire has paid magical dividends for so many people around the globe.

"I am deeply honored to be a part of a film that has inspired so many."

To be emceed by PEOPLE's reigning Sexiest Man Alive, Hugh Jackman, the 81st Academy Awards will be broadcast live on Sunday, Feb. 22, from Hollywood's Kodak Theatre at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

Reporting by SIMON PERRY and BRENDA RODRIGUEZ