“Like a rose in the gutter...”
Mira Nair got her start with documentary projects, so it makes sense that her first feature, Salaam Bombay!, is a gritty and realistic depiction of life on the streets for a kid in the slums of Bombay. It also feels logical that Nair would use real street kids as her cast to imbue the story with a more authentic sense. Should she have just made a documentary though? Or does the film work as is? Join us – Pete Wright and Andy Nelson – as we kick off our Coming of Age Debuts series with Nair’s 1988 film Salaam Bombay!.
The title Salaam Bombay! may feel more appropriate for a Bollywood musical, but the film stands out regardless.
While it has a documentary feel, the film works well to introduce us to the world of Krishna and the people in it. We feel it’s fictional but it does have a sense that it could actually happen. But does Nair push too much to advocate for change with the end of the film? Pete thinks so and doesn’t like it but Andy feels it works exceptionally well.
The child performers were actual street kids and they bring incredible authenticity to the film. The adults feel a part of the world as well, and as dark as this world is, there is a sense of community that develops.
There’s also a sense that this is a vicious cycle and these kids will never break free. It’s difficult, particularly seeing the adults and realizing it’s the next step for the kids. Whether it’s a pimp, a drug dealer, a brothel madame, or just a business owner who exploits the children for cheap labor, it’s an inevitability in this world. It’s the opposite of the fantastical escape in Slumdog Millionaire.
So does this fit as a coming of age film? If the kid seems to be stuck in this place, does he come of age? We disagree a bit on this point.
Regardless, we both find it to be a strong film with amazing child performances. It’s a film that should be seen by more people just to walk in the shoes of this community. We have a great conversation about it so check it out then tune in. The Next Reel – when the movie ends, our conversation begins!
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