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Dec 18, 2003

Salaam Bombay 


Fifteen years, thats a long time to abstain from watching a great movie from your own country, made by one of the greatest directors, that too a woman, why did I do this unpardonable crime? I saw a bit of it once, at one of my friend's houses in Ahmedabad, five years back, didn't give it more than a fleeting glance since we had a seminar presentation the next day. Yesterday I got the opportunity again, what more could I say, salaam Bombay! salaam Mira Nair! for giving us this gem of a movie, salaam to all the people who worked behind and in this film, one of the best movies, in any language I have ever watched.

Salaam Bombay is one of the few movies, that unleashed a mass movement in India, a movement for the betterment of lives of street children, in Bomaby. You can catch that at Salaamstreetkids.org The other similar movie I can remember is Roland Joffe's City of Joy, which led to the creation of City of Joy trust by Dominique Lapierre for the underpriveleged in Calcutta. For a little more than two hours, you are made to realize how lucky you are, lounging in the sofa infront of the TV or munching pop corn at the movie hall, you will be glad you are not one of those street kids whose life epitomises the meaning of struggle every next second, yet they are happy, they are innocent and they are real. The director Mira Nair, selected real street kids for the roles, in addition to a few character actors like Raghuvir Yadav, Nana Patekar and Anita Kanwar. When one of the street kids in an interview done fifteen years later says that 99% of the movie is true to life in the streets of Mumbai, you will know this is as real as it gets. Salaam Bombay is one of the movies that will awaken that altruistic streak in everyone of us, the moment we are done with the movie, we are bundles of enthusiasm, we burst with goodness, we are faced with the blessed idea that we have to contribute something to the betterment of humanity. Well, if you feel that way, don't let that feeling die a natural death after a couple of hours, act on it, it is actually true when they say, 'you can make a difference'.

The DVD I saw included interviews with the main actors and technicians who worked in the film in 1988, a segment in the lines of "Where are they now?'. Shafiq Sayid, the protangonist has gone from a street kid to a national award winning child star to a nobody and to being an assisstant cameraman settled and leading a peaceful life with a wife and two kids in Bangalore. Another street kid (Kira in the movie) was adopted by Salaam Bombay's camera woman Sandy Sissel and is now Bernard Sissel, living in LA - talk about chances in a billion. Mira Nair, ofcourse as everyone know went on to become one of the acclaimed directors in world cinema. I have watched all the movies made by her, except the documentaries, but this one, her first one, I'd say, is by far the best.

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