Gore of yore
Allah Ke Banday
Direction: Faruk Kabir
Cast: Sharman Joshi, Faruk Kabi
"Asia’s biggest slum” Dharavi, many believe, is not even the largest slum of Mumbai. Vast stretches of shanties called Mankhurd, further north from Dharavi, is much denser; Mira Road and thereabouts in Mumbai’s northwest is as huge, if not huger. Dharavi is still the urban ‘povertariat’s’ favourite slum.
The lower deck of Mumbai, the leading men of this film belong to, is called Bhul-Bhulaiya. Gruesome crimes, kids with country-made and automatic weapons here remain entirely below the press’s radar. The police are conspicuous by their complete non-existence. The filmmakers lead us literally into a dark ‘underworld’. Brazilian City Of God is by now standard textbook for this genre. This one’s no exception.
The gentlemen before us, Vijay (Sharman) and Yakub (Faruk) — Jai and Veeru, joined by the hip — grew up in Bhul-bhulaiya, certain that they would one day lord over the asbestos empire. They find themselves in a bolster home too soon. An early skirmish with a local don lands them there. The two kids still grow up nursing their childhood dreams, in a prison full of minors (and some over-aged inmates).
This is where drugs are a daily trade, and a bald, limping house warden (Naseeruddin Shah; a role played better by his protégé Ankur Vikal in Slumdog Millionaire) buggers the living daylights out of young boys.
At the recent Mumbai international film festival, a film called R, shot entirely in a real Danish prison, picked up a top prize. The director (Michael Noer) made a fair jibe at his audience in the Mumbai screening. “A lot of you may find these prisons to be decent apartments,” he said. He was right.
The “anda cell” (egg cell) here isn’t too bad either. Tandoori chicken is served for dinner; boys are dressed in relatively crisp blue shirts. Our heroes eventually finish their term with well-toned bodies, Man-U and Argentine soccer jerseys to take home. They have Rs 6 lakh collected as savings. They raise an entire private army, procure major arms, place gunmen at their grilled gates. The slum’s self-righteous shikshak (teacher, Atul Kulkarni) plays the conscience. The action is tightly executed; the outcome, terribly dissatisfying.
There is something annoyingly simplistic about gruffly, gutter groups of fictional Nana Sahib, Bala Shetty and Suleiman Patni, etc, when they entirely appear without a political context. That quintessential Mumbai genre (Satya, Vaastav…) demands a serious update now (Maqbool was altogether another mythology).
Stakes are evidently higher. Terrorism has replaced street mafia of the ‘70s. One black Friday of ‘93 supposedly altered the game, its court, and the rules forever. The gangs and their slums are not the same anymore. This would be a minor issue if the picture’s setting wasn’t completely the point itself. It unfortunately is. There is no other story. Well. Too bad.