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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 September 2017
Indian film-maker Mira Nair’s 1988 debut fiction feature, telling a tale of the loss of childhood innocence on the corrupt, poverty-stricken streets of Bombay, remains an authentic and powerful piece of cinema. Very much in evidence here is Nair’s previous experience in documentary film-making, as she and cinematographer Sandi Sissel evocatively convey the bustling milieu of the populous Indian city, together with all its contradictions in terms of wealth inequality and a seeming absence of moral values. Against the backdrop of the film’s undoubted qualities of verisimilitude, Nair and regular co-writer Sooni Taraporevala have carved out a subtly engaging, and increasingly powerful, narrative, in the process marshalling a cast of first-time child actors to impressive effect. Nair and Taraporevala also do not pull any punches in terms of the depiction of the film’s (and city’s) less salubrious themes, in particular, around child trafficking and prostitution, and drug addiction.

One of the central themes here – frequently depicted in cinema elsewhere – is the corrupting influence of the 'big city’ (with its supposedly 'more civilised’ values) vs. that of rural life. Here, it is a rural life that Shafiq Syed’s (11-year old) young innocent Krishna (aka Chaipau), has been forced to leave behind in order to make good on a family debt (of 500 rupees), resulting in the boy finding himself suffering a pauper’s existence (as a teaboy) in the big city, in amongst fellow street urchins (mature beyond their years) and (more worryingly) pimps, junkies, brothel madams and child prostitutes. Of course, the sordid nature of goings-on here is made all the more effective by being witnessed (predominantly) from a child’s viewpoint – a young girl being forced to wait in the next room whilst her prostitute mother meets a client, the virginity of a new ‘recruit’ being highly prized, etc. A brilliant (and devastating) sequence is that where the camera lingers on a young girl who has 'pilfered’ a biscuit, a 'treat’ to stave off hunger, nervously looking around, anticipating the consequences should she be discovered. All of Nair’s cast impress here, particularly Syed and Nana Patekar as the creepily charismatic pimp and ‘family man’, Baba. The friendship between Chaipau and Raghuvir Yadav’s 'jack-the-lad’ and junkie, Chillum, is also particularly touching, whilst the stark contrast between Chaipau’s meagre existence and the make-believe world of Bollywood is repeatedly drawn by Nair.

In terms of comparator films, I’m sure there are many. Satyajit Ray’s renowned Apu Trilogy is an obvious reference point, whilst both Bunuel’s Los Olvidados and Fernando Meirelles’ more recent City of God provide even more extreme examples of the corrupting influence of money and power on impressionable, impoverished youth. That Nair’s film can be mentioned in this sort of company is high praise indeed.
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on 13 March 2016
Having watched Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy as well as “Manahagar”/”The Big City”, I was eager to delve deeper into the world of Indian cinema. So I followed a recommendation from one of my film books and watched Mira Nair’s 1988 film “Salaam Bombay!”. If you’re not familiar with it, it is about a young boy, abandoned by the travelling circus he was involved with, who uses what money he has to travel to poverty stricken Bombay; surrounded by pimps, prostitutes and drug dealers, he constantly tries to get the 500 rupees he needs to return to his family.

The film is definitely reminiscent of “City of God”, perhaps as well as “Slumdog Millionaire” and the excellent “Wadjda” and this film is wonderful as well. I think I’ll start off with the music because it is just beautiful and moving; juxtaposed with the striking images of poverty stricken streets, it certainly elicits an emotional reaction. I was able to see the streets through the young boy Krishna’s eyes and was left wondering “How could it get like this?” On a related note, the production design is great and the film is visually impressive.

There are also great performances throughout, even from the child actors, most of whom came from the streets and went through training to teach them how to act in the film. I also loved the Neo Realism element of the film, proving that Indian cinema isn’t just about Bollywood! “Salaam Bombay!” is certainly an ideal film to watch after seeing some of Satyajit Ray’s films.

So in conclusion, this is a gritty, thoughtful, powerful, well made film; my admiration for world cinema continues.
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on 4 November 2015
Another moving story by Mira Nair. India is changing fast and this is one aspect of the country which neither tourists nor scholars get to see much. Drugs, prostitution and outrageous neglect of justice by the authorities paint a damning picture of the city we know of as the economic capital of India and home of Bollywood.

Not a pretty film, but, over twenty years after its shooting, still a must see to understand India.
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on 16 September 2010
I cannot claim that you will feel quite content after watching this movie. Or beam with feelings of happiness or joy. Nevertheless, this is powerful viewing and grips you from the opening scene and removes you from this world until the final credits. For many of us, (most of us actually) the reality of this movie is bound to lead to feelings of guilt/discomfort. And one cannot help but also drawing parallels between this and Slumdog Millionaire. Clearly, a lot has been borrowed from this movie.

It remains however, a brilliant piece of cinema, and demands a visit to Bombay (now Mumbai). I can assure you, nothing has changed.
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on 24 September 2017
Well directed and acted but deeply upsetting. Not a comfortable experience
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on 15 September 2015
It is reality and some people may not like it because of of that, heart wrenching and sad about the people few care about who only thing they have is hope and each other.
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on 7 July 2013
Excellent film concerning the street children of India, enjoyed every moment of it, not so sure about the abrupt ending though, would have liked to know what happened to our main character.
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on 29 November 2014
A bitter sweet little story. Moving and definately worth watching.
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on 20 September 2017
great
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on 29 June 2014
Main problem is that there doesn't seem to be any indication on the website that this film is in HINDI

Yes there are subtitles but it is apparent they are giving only the highlights of the conversation that is happening on screen
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