Salaam Bombay took the Cannes film festival by storm in 1988 and made director Mira Nair famous; however, I’ve noticed that when I mention this film and compare it to Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire most people have never heard of it.
The similarities in the films are startling. Salaam Bombay‘s main characters are Bombay’s street children. The hero of the story is also a chai boy. But India is an altogether different character in this film. It’s not the tech capital that it was in last night’s Oscar winner.
As I watched the kid stars of Slumdog Millionaire go up on stage last night, I thought about the special features on the Salaam Bombay DVD. Usually director commentaries are a bore, but perhaps because Nair is a professor she has a way of giving out interesting information that you actually want to know about the film. There is also a commentary done by the cinematographer which I also enjoyed. But most importantly, there is a special documentary revisiting the children of the film.
The experiences are wildly different. The child who played the chai boy has not really gone on to make anything else despite his awards for Salaam Bombay. You get the idea that classism is rife in Bollywood and this award means little. The girl in the film is married though Nair expresses a wish that she did not marry. There is a backstory there clearly. And one of the street kids in the film was adopted by the cinematographer and now is also a cinamtographer in L.A. where he enjoys surfing. He seems just like any American and you wonder if he even remembers the hard life he led for those few years. What will become of the Slumdog Millionaire kids? If the Salaam Bombay children are any indication, it will be an uphill battle.