Salaam Bombay, a true masterpiece released in 1988. It was the directorial debut for director Mira Nair and screenwriter Sooni Taraporevala. The film depicts the plight of urban street children. The protagonist Krishna, is played by Shafiq Sayed. Along with Shafiq other child actors in this movie were street children themselves. Other important characters are played by Raghuvir Yadav – Chillum, Anita Kanwar – Rekha & Nana Patekar – Baba.
Krishna is a child labourer in a circus. He can return home only if he brings Rs 500 to his mother as compensation for burning his brother’s motor bike. He lands up in Mumbai where he is mugged by few children thieves and eventually he starts working with them. Working by the name of “chaai pau” selling tea in a nearby red light area, he meets few other street children and chillum. Chillum, a drug addict becomes Krishna’s closest friend and frequently asks for money from him. Rekha’s daughter, Manju likes Krishna whereas he has a crush on newly brought prostitute, Sola Saal. He tries to comfort her and even gets beaten up badly in an attempt to elope with her. Baba, a pimp, is short tempered and is frigid to Manju. He abandons her at night when he is with Rekha. With the kind of surrounding and people around him, arranging Rs 500 seems to be an inconceivable idea for Krishna. The matter gets worse when Manju and Krishna are caught by police and sent in to detention.
Acting and Screenplay
The film has been brilliantly captured with an insight into the problems that threaten urban street children. Apart from this, the movie also displays the ugly face of prostitution and life of prostitutes. The different social evils are very artistically incorporated and interconnected by Mira Nair. There are some very intense shots like when Krishna breaks down and cries realizing he won’t be able to make Rs 500. The screenplay is indeed amazing. Shafiq Sayed has perfectly portrayed the innocent and struggling character. He is so natural that audiences connect with him and empathize with him right away. Raghuvir, Nana Patekar & Anita are also strong characters in the film and have been portrayed brilliantly.
The film won the National Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi, the National Board of Review Award for Top Foreign Film, the Golden Camera and Audience Awards at the Cannes Film Festival, and three awards at the Montréal World Film Festival. The film was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. This film made voices of the underprivileged children in India heard in an International arena. Mira Nair also established an organization for street children, called the Salaam Baalak Trust in India soon after the success of the film.
The film does have a deep impact on the audience. It is a constant reminder of the quandary of street kids and the film encourages the country as a whole to take drastic measures towards making their plight easier.