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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Salaam Bombay
Salaam Bombay
MGM // Unrated // March 4, 2003
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Don Houston | posted March 6, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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Movie: The movie was a look at a group of children who roamed the streets of Bombay in India, trying to scratch out a living in a society that viewed them as third class citizens, barely worth the trouble they caused (on a good day). The streets were harsh and full of pimps, hookers, drug dealers, thieves and other dregs of society that few in the middle and upper classes would care to know about. In short, it was a Libertarian's dream world.

The main character, Krishna (Shafiq Syed), started off the movie by being left behind by a circus he was forced to work at by his mother. The boy was only 10 years old when he discovered that it had left without him and he spends his last bit of money trying to find them. Needless to say, he gets stranded on the mean streets of Bombay where everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE, is hustling everyone else and looking for that angle to make more money and ensure their own survival. Krishna takes any odd jobs he can get, regardless of the pay, in hopes of saving up enough money to go home. It doesn't take long for his childish fantasies to lose out to the overwhelmingly obvious conclusion that there is no hope. Given the sheer numbers of similarly stuck people, the nature of the slums, and the totality of circumstances, what could he expect to do?

The movie was the first feature from Director Mira Nair, who's previous work on documentaries is obvious, given what is seen in this movie. She skillfully showed the horrible nature of the slums without falling into the trap of sentimentality or proposing any quick fixes like a domestically made film would've done. Third World slums are similar all over the world, from Brazil to Bombay, and the mindnumbing poverty is displayed in all it's many facets here. There's no happy ending or reason to dance for joy at the end but the movie was a powerful messenger and as such, was worthy of the 25+ awards it has received over the last 15 years. Keep in mind that most of the children cast in the movie were actually living as the movie detailed when the Director and crew came into Bombay to make the movie-they held workshops to pick out the most suitably talented kids and then used them. Pretty unique, huh?

Picture: The picture was presented in anamorphic widescreen, in the movie's original 1.85: 1 ratio. The picture looked very good considering the low budget (~$800,000), indie nature of the film as shot in India. The dvd transfer was very sharp considering the source material and had few artifacts or other problems.

Sound: The audio was presented in the original Hindi, with English subtitles with a choice of either a mono soundtrack or an enhanced 5.1 surround. There were English, French, and Spanish subtitles to choose from.

Extras: There were two audio commentaries: one with the Director, Mira Nair, who detailed a lot of background information about the cast, the screenplay, and what needed to be done to get the movie made as well as some of the choices she made, and one with Cinematographer Sandi Sissel, who spent an awful lot of time discussing technical matters, such as how the blue colors had to be reintegrated when a processing problem occurred, some of her memories about the crowds, etc. There were 6 documentaries of varying lengths, almost all of them by now grown up cast members or technical people, One Chance In a Million; A Color In the Hand Of the Painter; I Got Love; It Gave Me a Career; So Kids Like Us Can Learn Forever, and No Guts, No Glory. Most of them were 6 or so minutes long and all of them had insights on the movie and it's background. There was also a photogallery and 3 trailers as well as a paper insert in the dvd case that listed the scenes and main cast members.

Final Thoughts: In many ways, the movie is a real downer in how it detailed things like child slavery, abject poverty, humanity's lack of compassion towards one another, and a host of other social ills that are present in most nations to some extent or another. Nonetheless, it cannot be denied that it's a fascinating look into that world and is never boring. The extras included were particularly good and added a lot of value themselves. I highly recommend this to fans of foreign films or even those who'd like to see how other people see such riveting topics.

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