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Spotty, but slumdog real!

movie-reviews Updated: Mar 05, 2010 01:55 IST
Mayank Shekhar
Mayank Shekhar
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Thanks Maa

Cast: Shams Patel

Direction: Irfan Kamal

Rating: **

The little homeless kid Jamal, err, Salman, holds around his arms, an infant, nicely wrapped in a crisp, white cloth. He’d found the newborn outside a bolster home, while trying to escape the children’s prison. The baby is all of a few months old. The boy is determined to find the baby’s mother.

He carries the infant around, hurling him across the city, through the narrow gullies, and over days. The severely unfed just-born, awkwardly held, remains quiet, soundly sleeps through the proceedings. For a picture that rightly prides itself on its realism, a doll doubling up for a baby, is an uncomfortable thought. The premise falls flat right away.

Mumbai’s underbelly, or its gritty innards, is up for public display. It is anyway as in-your-face as it gets for anyone who’s been to the city. It’s just ironic that the place that apparently produces most number of films in the world, rarely reveals itself through its own films.

Danny Boyle, a rank outsider, could visually capture Bombay, err, Mumbai’s beats better than all local filmmakers put together. Kamal takes a decent shot at it as well.

His camera pans across dumpsters, squatters, filth and margins that lend the high-rise Mumbai its uniquely mucky colour. The views are stunningly raw and real. They’re also at the same time dull and belaboured.

While Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) wished to entertain, Kamal largely intends to enlighten. Somewhere in that obsession with the underbelly — paedophilia, incest, transgenders, BDSM, genitalia, prostitution — you can sense a filmmaker’s forced efforts to provoke.

Loose reels ramble on. And there’s just one observation you go back home with: the boy Shamsi (the hero better known as Municipality), and his little buddies off the pavement. To begin with, they talk like street urchins. And not Dev Patel.

It may be unfair to expect a kid to carry an entire movie on his weak shoulders. It still proves how the child – raw in innocence -- is the father of the leading man. Adults 'act'. Just watch veterans on the same show -- Raghuveer Yadav, Alok Nath.... I’m glad the boy earned himself a National Award.