Indian director Mira Nair’s moving 1988 tribute to the resilience of Bombay’s street children, Salaam Bombay! has as its protagonist a young homeless boy (Shafiq Syed) battling to survive by his wits on the city’s teeming streets after being abandoned by the travelling circus that has been his home.
With a background in documentary filmmaking, Nair shot her debut feature, entirely on location, after first conducting workshops among Bombay’s real-life street children and using their true stories as the basis for her screenplay.
She doesn’t sweeten her depiction of poverty with feelgood fantasy (unlike the later Slumdog Millionaire to which her film has been compared), but she does nevertheless convey the energy and vitality that here co-exists with extreme deprivation. Her gritty and compassionate movie won the Camera d’Or at Cannes in 1988 and remains as vivid as ever, particularly in Mirabai Films’ restoration.
Certificate 15. Runtime 109 mins. Director Mira Nair.
Salaam Bombay screens in BFI Southbank NFT2 at 6.15pm tonight and at Rich Mix in Shoreditch at 1.15pm on Sunday 11 October.