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13 year old Riyaz lives a poor lifestyle in Bombay, India, with his grandmother, Fayyuzi, and her sister, Mehmooda alias Mammo. Quite outspoken and embittered over his dad abandoning him, Riyaz does not have many friends, save for Rohan. When Mammo plans a surprise birthday party for him, Riyaz is offended as he believes his friends will make fun of him as his lifestyle is not as good as their's. Fayyuzi and Riyaz have an argument with Mammo, and she leaves for the Mosque at Haji Ali, but returns when both apologize to her. Although Mammo was born in Panipat during the British Raj, she was one of thousands of Muslims who left for Pakistan. She was married over there, could not conceive, was branded a "barren woman", and asked to leave. Having nowhere else to go, she came to live with her widowed sister in Bombay on a temporary Visa. Every month she would walk to the nearest Police Station and get an extension. She finally paid a Rs.4800/ as a bribe in order to get a permanent visa ... Written by
Shyam Benegal and Khalid Mohamed create a tender, beautiful account of a Muslim boy's childhood in post-partition India.
On the surface this is the story of a woman like millions others, uprooted by partition - probably the greatest tragedy of our times - trying to get back to her roots. Mammo absolutely refuses to let any politician take away from her what makes her life worth living - her sister, her grandson and her city.
On another, more charming level, it is a lovingly detailed depiction of the world seen through the eyes of the adolescent Riyaz. A sense of shame for one's background, the first time one was moved by poetry (for Riyaz its Kahlil Gibran), a budding fascination with the world of cinema, first experiences with cigarettes and porn, its all there. The atmosphere is made rich by references to Beethoven, Faiz, Gibran and movies like Psycho, Bobby and Garm Hawa.
Farida Jalal and Surekha Sikri turn in great performances. There is a beautiful ghazal sung by Jagjit Sing and written by Gulzar that adds depth and poignancy to the film each time it plays. Gulzar fans will value the use of his jolting story 'Ravi Paar'.
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