Salaam Bombay!

The streets of Bombay teem with children begging, dealing, sleeping rough, and struggling to survive by whatever means possible. Working on a scale that would make Dickens envious, director Mira Nair draws together the seemingly disparate threads of life in a red-light district, focusing on an 11-year-old boy who runs away from his village to the city. At first frightened and alienated, the boy soon becomes part of a complex hierarchy of exploitation, abuse and affection as he befriends the prostitutes, drug dealers and children of the streets. Far from being episodic or disjointed, the film brings the lives of all its characters into a common embrace, never pointing a finger of blame but constantly emphasising the difficulties and dangers that surround young and old alike. Shot entirely on location, with its child actors recruited from the streets, Salaam Bombay! enters into its subjects’ lives with rare authority and absolute compassion, the material being generated largely from workshops that Nair and her team ran for a period of months prior to filming.

India/France, 1988.
English subtitles
114 mins.

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