Having watched Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy as well as “Manahagar”/”The Big City”, I was eager to delve deeper into the world of Indian cinema. So I followed a recommendation from one of my film books and watched Mira Nair’s 1988 film “Salaam Bombay!”. If you’re not familiar with it, it is about a young boy, abandoned by the travelling circus he was involved with, who uses what money he has to travel to poverty stricken Bombay; surrounded by pimps, prostitutes and drug dealers, he constantly tries to get the 500 rupees he needs to return to his family.
The film is definitely reminiscent of “City of God”, perhaps as well as “Slumdog Millionaire” and the excellent “Wadjda” and this film is wonderful as well. I think I’ll start off with the music because it is just beautiful and moving; juxtaposed with the striking images of poverty stricken streets, it certainly elicits an emotional reaction. I was able to see the streets through the young boy Krishna’s eyes and was left wondering “How could it get like this?” On a related note, the production design is great and the film is visually impressive.
There are also great performances throughout, even from the child actors, most of whom came from the streets and went through training to teach them how to act in the film. I also loved the Neo Realism element of the film, proving that Indian cinema isn’t just about Bollywood! “Salaam Bombay!” is certainly an ideal film to watch after seeing some of Satyajit Ray’s films.
So in conclusion, this is a gritty, thoughtful, powerful, well made film; my admiration for world cinema continues.