Friday, February 11, 2005


Last night on Independent Film Channel I watched one of the best movies I've seen in awhile, a 1998 movie called "Salaam Bombay!" It is a film about the world of the homeless children and youth in the underworld of Mumbai (formerly, "Bombay").

The film is classic and universal. It could have been made in the les Halles district in Paris, the Tenderloin in San Francisco, the old Wanchai district in Hong Kong, the former Shinjuku district in Tokyo- that part of large cities that attract the prematurely destitute, homeless, helpless, and hopeless: havens for the addicted and those who trade in pleasures of the flesh for sustenance and survival.

In "Salaam Bombay!" the protagonist is Krishna (aka "Chaipau")a homeless preteen, living on the street with other street kids. He earns a few rupees delivering hot chai for a tea-walla. He has a friend Manju, the beautiful daughter of the consort-wife of the handsome, seductive, and cruel drug-lord, Baba (not worthy of a respectful "-ji" at the end of his name). Baba consigns his little girl, Manju, to the street; makes a sex-slave of "sweet sixteen", another friend of Chaipau; fires the drug-runner friend of Chaipau ("drug-runner" eventually "o.d."s on drugs).

At the time of the Festival of Ganesh ("elephant deity"), everything comes to a head. Baba's evil deeds have caught up with him. Because Babas's wife-consort cannot bring herself to kill him, "innocent" Chaipau (Krishna) takes the knife she has dropped and stabs Baba through the back.

I will leave the denoument undiscussed;likewise, the historic detention and social service centers for children. The children at these centers sing devotion to, perhaps it is best if we let Ganesh, whose memory and love of learning is legend, fill in the rest of the story: after all, Ganesh- with his elephantine nose- tells the best stories. Stories like the Ramayana...and the Mahabharatha.

The story of Homelessness and Children is ancient and very sad. Only Ganesh knows the whole story. But "Salaam Bombay!" speaks to the HEART- as do all good stories: Ask Ganesh. He knows...


At 3:01 AM, Blogger Amar said...

Yes .. salam bombay is a great story and about a subject that requires more such media to face-off the cruel facts that are hidden within ! As a citizen of Mumbai, I come across many such children and many such incidences ... but, we've become "numb" over the years to even notice them around us .. such is the life here and the pace of it.

What makes salam bombay a wonderful story is the well crafted way in which it is presented. Dirction is really good.

What amazes me the most is Chuck's knowledge and interest about India, Indian Culture and Religion ... and that includes the people and the kind of lingo that we use here in Mumbai.

Thank you for a good blog.


At 4:50 PM, Blogger JJHare said...

I must see this film. Thanks


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