It was quite a coincidence that Raghuvir Yadav was arrested (for not paying alimony to his estranged wife) the same week that I watched Salaam Bombay! Playing the role of a drug addict Raghuvir Yadav delivered quite a memorable performance in the film. The emotions of a drug addict cum peddler – the recklessness, the ecstasy and the restlessness all are beautifully captured. The addiction is but one thread along with the story runs. The movie is about the life of Mumbai street children. Its true – the more things change, the more they remain the same. For a movie that had been made 22 years ago, the story of the street children in Mumbai has not been too different. That’s why Slumdog Millionaire doesnot seem like a movie set 20 years back but in contemporary times.
I would rate Salaam Mumbai as Mira Nair’s best work and the motley crowd of child actors delivered their role to perfection. The movie has some really beautiful moments like our young protagonist setting a room on fire so that he can help his object of affection (aptly named, Sola Saal – Sweet Sixteen) escape from the clutches of prostitution, or he stealing a small chick for her. There are parts of the movie which are as stark as Cidade de Deus (City of God) and in terms of honesty I would rate it above Slumdog Millionaire. In a nutshell, Salaam Bombay is a highly watchable and realistic movie.
Moving from Silver screen to TV screen, I found Mansi Choksi’s article – Sleeping with the Enemy, a very well written piece on the intellectual dishonestly of the many TV serials which start with the premise of fighting social evils (or issues) but end up as any other run of the mill love story. My tryst with TV soaps is limited to reading advertisement of new soaps on hoardings on way to office. I cannot but admire the imaginative titles – Na Ana Is Des Lado, Pratigya , Beta Chaye Wife Ma Chaye Bahu ( or something along the lines ). The columnist gives the example of Pratigya, where the female protagonist takes up the cause of eve teaching to begin with and somewhere in the middle does a volta face and falls in love with same person who she was supposed to challenge. Maybe there no social cause in mind at all for the script writers and producers but another ‘visual landscape ‘(to pick up the phrase from the article). I would assume with love story themes having dried up – given that we have explored all formats- falling in love with the prostitute, with the coolie, with a terrorist – we have to explore new love territories like child marriage and the eve teaser. While the channels can carry on with their twisted tale of love I just hope there is a big disclaimer right at the beginning – This is a work of fiction and the social issues are just to titillate and not to be taken seriously.