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Film Society to show ‘Salaam Bombay’

A street scene from “Salaam Bombay,” directed by Mira Nair. The 1988 film is the latest in the New Ulm Film Society’s Women Director series. (MGM/imdb.com)

NEW ULM — The New Ulm Film Society continues its Women Director series with the Hindi film “Salaam Bombay.”

The screening will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March, 13 in the New Ulm Public library. Members of the Film Society will facilitate discussion about the film before and after the screening.

Released in 1988, the film was directed by Mira Nair. The film tells the story of a boy named Krishna who is abandoned at a circus by his mother until he can raise 500 rupees to repay his brother for damaging his bike.

Krishna eventually becomes involved with the street children of Bombay. Krishna does a series of jobs for shady people in the Bombay underworld in order to raise the 500 rupees so he can return home but life on the streets makes it impossible to reach his 500 rupee goal.

Krishna’s dream of returning home is never a real possibility. It is likely his mother sold him to the circus. Even if Krishna obtains 500 rupees he is uncertain of where his village is located. The real theme of the film is that of hope in the most unfortunate of situation.

The creation of “Salaam Bombay” was unusual. The script was written by gathering stories of real street children in Bombay. Once the street kids shared their stories Nair used many of these kids in the film. After a few daily workshops they were instructed how to behave in front of the camera, but not necessarily told how to act. By this time movies were extremely popular medium in India and the children had a good idea of how to act.

Not a single scene in the film is shot on a set, everything was shot on location in the real slums of Bombay. Several scenes were shot with a hidden camera to capture real world behavior of citizens, including a funeral procession. This gave the film an authentic feel.

Nair said in an interview her biggest conviction to make the movie stemmed from the street children and their attitude of grabbing life. The street children of Bombay wanted to have a full life and there was no self-pity.

“Salaam Bombay” was an international success upon release. It won several film awards including audience favorite at the Cannes Film Festival. It was nominated for Best Foreign Language film at the Academy Awards, becoming only the second film from India to be nominated for an Oscar.

The film would go on to inspired other films. Exactly 20 years after “Salaam Bombay” was released a similar themed film set in India called “Slumdog Millionaire” was released. This film also told a story about street kids living in India and went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.

After the success of “Salaam Bombay,” Nair was able to make a career as a director of both Hollywood and Bollywood films. In 2006, she directed a “Queen of Katwe” for Disney and tells the story of Ugandan girl whose world changes after being introduced to chess.

Nair is one of the few women directors to have a career that spans three decades.

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