Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A lesser known tale of the better known slumdogs

This Sunday, 8th March, my friend Pankaj called me up in the afternoon and asked if I'd like to accompany him for  a special screening of a film written by his childhood friend. Well, that was really very unusual, first of all, to have a friend who writes for movies and that also a movie for which there would be a special screening. I didn't have much to do interesting for that evening other than watching the Filmfare Awards in TV. Seeing a movie by the friend of my friend sounded really interesting. I picked Pankaj up from his home and proceeded towards Ravindra Kalakshetra (in Bangalore). On the way Pankaj mentioned about his friend Vishal Vijay Kumar, who had the penchant for writing since his college days. Finally he landed up in Bombay with the hope to make it big in the 'Zara Hatke Zara Bachke' city. His story is a typical one for anyone aspiring of making it big in Bollywood. Almost everyone starting from Lata Mangeshkar to Imran Hashmi has some story of struggle. Several popular stories make round in various magazines. But then listening from someone who has heard the stories of struggle from the horse's mouth is little different. Thanks to the recent movie "Luck By Chance", many insider information about movie making is known to us. Vishal's experience is also similar - starting from producers asking in a very blatant and gross way to write stories 'inspired' by any particular DVD or adding a scene where the heroine's skirt 'should'  fly off in a Merilyn Monro style out of the blue and then suddenly a song should start in the background expressing the mental condition of the hero after seeing the unseen!! Perhaps these were not anything new. Neither was new Vishal's patience and perseverance to wait till he got the right opportunity to write a story from his heart. But when I finally saw the movie "Thanks Maa", written by him, I was really taken aback. It might be easy to say ideological things, but then in reality achieving what your heart says is something else. Vishal had finally written really something from his heart - something that would touch many other hearts.

The director of the movie had come to Bangalore for a special screening of the movie at Ravindra Kalakshetra and that's where Pankaj was requested by his friend Vishal to attend the screening.

After reaching Ravindra Kalakshetra we found that some function was going on in the auditorium. Everything was happening in Kannada and the people outside also didn't know what exactly was happening inside. Someone told that it was the birthday celebration of some hero, even though we couldn't figure out which hero it could be. Pankaj called Irfan, the director of the movie. Irfan asked us to come to the green room. That's when we learnt what the event was all about. It was the 74th birth anniversary of writer and journalist P Lankesh and the occassion to give out the Lankesh Film Award by his daughter and popular Kannada film director Kavita Lankesh. Irfan Kamal, the director of the movie "Thanks Maa", has been selected as the best debutant film director for 2008. The jury of the award had seen the movie in the Indian Film Festival at Goa last year. Irfan Kamal was here to receive the award and screen the movie for the select audience. Knowing all these created a sort of interest in the movie. After the award ceremony we watched the movie.

The movie "Thanks Maa" (see a trailer here) is about kids in slums of Bombay. After the recent hoopla about "Slumdog Millionaire" the story of Bombay slum is again in the spot light. So I didn't expect anything special or unique in the approach or treatment of a topic that has been dealt too much in movies and media. But I was there for a surprising shock. The movie indeed revolves around five kids from a typical Bombay slum - Soda, Cutting, Sursuri, Dhed-Shaana and the hero called Municipality Ghatkopar. But the essence of the film is not just the slum life. It's a poignant tale of an orphan kid who comes across an abandoned new born baby and goes out of the way to unite the baby with his mother. The orphan kid is called Municipality Ghatkopar because he was found abandoned in a Municipality hospital in Ghatkopar. He was raised in the slums of Bombay, just like any other slum kid. But there is a difference between him and the others. He always has an yearning to meet with his mother, whom he never saw in his life. This yearning is so deep that he keeps on going to the hospital where a security had found him abandoned some ten years back. For all these ten years he kept his hope of uniting with his mother alive. Nothing in his life is the pain of not knowing his own mother. That's why when he discovers the new born being abandoned by a lady he makes it a mission of his life to unite the baby with his mother. Nothing is more important to him at that point of time

The rest of the story is about how he finally reaches the mother of the baby. But the biggest shock was waiting for him when he found the mother after so much pain. 

In course of his search for the mother, helped by four other kids, Municipality Ghatkopar experiences a lifeful of experiences. But never for a moment does any of the kids show any sign of depression or frustration. Their lives seem to be so normal amidst all the extreme happenings which can shake even a most unperturbed adult. It's the maturity, that the few immatures exhibit through out the movie, that stands high. The universal feeling of motherhood, that very sadly never arises among those mothers who dump their new born babies in hospitals, arises in a slum kid, who himself has been dumped by his own mother. The care that he takes for the baby, the ingenious ways that he invents along with the other kids to feed the baby and keep him alive is just incredible. It's really heartening to see such an unusual story of a kid. The critics of "Slumdog Millionaire" would surely come up with arms to criticize such a good piece of art on the ground that it shows the brutality and the ruthlessness of a dark side of humanity that's better hidden for ever. But they will surely miss the main thing of the movie - that has nothing to do with the slum or the poverty or the brutality - it's about the need of a mother in your life, a need that only an orphan can feel, a need that's the fortunate kids with parents might never understand as a need at all, a need that turns a ten year old kid into a man!!

Another striking thing about the movie is its sense of humor. Kudos to Vishal, the writer of the movie, for inter spacing the harshness of realities with fun and frolic and humor. The kids never express their helplessness. They are just enjoying their lives to the fullest with all their zeal and vitality. They crack jokes, fight with each other, make fun of each other the same way the rich kids of some international school would do,.... perhaps. That's a very beautiful thing that Vishal and Irfan, the director of he movie, have brought out. It's the story of life, it's the story of hope, it's the story of love.... that has nothing to do with the slums or the brutalities. It's a universal theme presented in the backdrop of a harsh reality.

Now coming to the technical aspects of the movie - for a debutant director it's really a well made movie with barely any trace of amateurish handling of anything. At some places the things become a bit gross, might be for an Indian audience, but overall it's well made. Special care has been taken for minute details to make everything look very real and authentic. Pankaj told me that not a single set was used for the movie. All the scenes were shot at real locations. The editing, music, background scores all were good. There was a feeling of a thriller throughout the movie. The climax scene, where Municipality finally unites with his mother (did he finally untie or that was just a wild thought of the expecting audience??) is well thought of and superbly presented. The movie leaves the audience in lot of thoughts. That's the right way to end a good story - to allow the reader or the audience to think loud and come to his own conclusion.

I really hope that the movie gets released finally. It somehow reminds me of "Chandni Bar", another well thought of  and well made movie.


Indian said...

excellent reviews , read comments also


Indian said...

How USA can Save 145,000,000,000 Dollars Every Year

The USA contributes USD 145 Billion every year to fund Christian Missionaries across the world. Churches across the world spend USD 1.1 Billion towards research aimed at achieving religious conversions. This is for propaganda material in 300 languages about 180 topics. Books and articles are printed in 500 languages. They total 175000. Every conversion costs USD 3300. It does not mean that this amount reaches the Convert. It is the expense incurred in activities related to administration, planning and implementation of the conversion programme. In 1500 A.D, there were 30,00,000 active Christian Missionaries. Their number stands at 64,80,00,000 today. 54% of these people are non-Whites. The strategy is to train non-Whites, provide them with funds and involve them in religious conversions. This is similar to the time when the British employed Indians as Soldiers to rule India!

It costs 145 billion dollars to operate global Christianity, records a book on evangelization. The Church commands 4,000,000 full time Christian workers, it runs 13,000 major libraries, it publishes 22,000 periodicals, it operates 1,800 Christian Radio and TV stations. It runs 1,500 universities and 930 research centers. It has 250,000 foreign missionaries and over 400 institutions to train them. These are 1989 numbers. No wonder Church needs Nazi gold looted from Jews of Europe and drug money to support this gigantic multinational operation.

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Anonymous said...

great movie,a must watch

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much Sudipto. I am over whelmed. Thank you for taking out time to watch THANKS MAA and a bigger thanks for writing so beautifully about it.

A project like THANKS MAA which has been conceived defying most of the prevalent norms of the industry is bound to tread through a rough and rocky road. We all were sort of prepared to face the challenges that often come in the way of such choices. Our only hope were the friends and people like you who understand the importance of such efforts and dont shy away from extending their support for the same.

After these couple of screenings (first at IFFI Goa, second at Bangalore and a few in Mumbai)... the kind of response we are getting for the film is very encouraging and morale boosting. My producer now dont want to rush for the release of the film.

A project like THANKS MAA needs a fair amount of positive pre-release buzz for a lay audience to take notice of it. We are trying to generate that right now.

See, when someone like you actually writes a blog about a film... it surely strikes the right chord in the hearts of your readers. If right buzz can make a black guy take the white house, we may also sail through. We have an official group page of the film on Facebook, please visit it sometime and drop in a line or two. May be invite your friends to join the group and also please let us know of other ways to create awareness about the film. Thanks once again from the bottom of my heart.

Best Regards,