Preteen brother and sister, abandoned by their father to care of an abusive prostitute aunt, survive life in an Indian squatters' camp, aided by a friendly cripple, by learning to shine shoes instead of begging.
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Saif Ali Khan,
Toddlers Belu and Bhola share an uncertain future when their mom dies in the plague, and their dad is imprisoned. They are then left in the uncaring care of Kamla, their aunt, who moonlights as a prostitute. She is cruel,abusive and forces them to take to a life of begging on the local trains, on beaches and crowded areas in Bombay. This is how the toddlers grow up, they want to lead a respectable life, and with the help of bootlegger John, they get a shoe-shine kit and start shining shoes on busy sidewalks and railway platforms. Their circumstances face more uncertainty when Kamla finds out about their new-found profession, beats them up and throws them out of the house. They temporarily seek shelter with John, but when he is arrested, they have to fend for themselves. Things become bad to worse when Bombay enters the monsoon season, when people do not get their shoes shined; then the duo are separated - with Belu ending up with a rich family, and when she asks about Bhola, she is ... Written by
I must admit I've always enjoyed the films of Raj Kapoor especially from his early golden period, but can find his moralising laid on a little heavy at times. He took the best pathos and melodrama from Chaplin and spun it out relentlessly. As in Boot Polish. It's not that I can argue with any of his philosophising and moral instruction, just that history has proved Film itself will never change the social system; it never brings shame to the faces of our Betters, but it probably would just make them wonder how much more they can turn the screws on us. After all, Film represents an entertainment they have paid their paisa or pennies for us to waste production time watching.
Two young children are orphaned and thrown onto the not so tender mercies of their scolding prostitute aunt and nice but drunken uncle in a Mumbai slum. She teaches them to beg for a living, he tries to teach them of the better, honest and more painful way, in their case the complicated profession of polishing other people's boots. It's done very well, and if it wasn't for the comedy and the songs almost neo-realist - RK even makes a fag-in-cheek cameo at the beginning. To beg or not to beg, that is the question - but the pain of surviving the slings and arrows of capitalism goes on and on for the children, although their destitute situation does eventually improve. Baby Naaz must have been very young but she provided a marvellously believable performance. My favourite bit though amidst all the grinding poverty is the energetic comic raag Lapak Jhapak To Aare Badarwa sung by Manna Dey for the uncle and his fellow bald headed companions in jail delicious stuff! I always wondered whether bits like these were particularly edited out in the Russian versions?
Needless to say self-sacrifice and self-effacement bring their reward - so basically it's another rewarding film from RK, an expertly produced moral melodrama.
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