Thursday, March 12, 2009

Salaam Mumbai

Salaam Bombay was released in 1988, one of Mira Nair's first films. The kind that left an indelible impact on you, especially if you were on the right side of thirty.

Every Mumbaikar liked it, believed it, was moved by it. The film was nominated for an Oscar, and many others, but eventually won only at Cannes. That was twenty years ago when the West was still Best, and India hadn't yet become the flavour of the year.

Soon after the 1993 bomb blasts, Ravi Gupta got us together at Trikaya, and overnight we drew up a campaign on print, film and outdoor, saluting the spirit of Mumbai with the now famous "Salaam Mumbai" slogan, inspired by the film. (By then the name of city had been changed). We shot two minute films featuring unsung heroes who rushed to help the blast victims, and got all the media to run the entire campaign free. The experience of being attacked was a first, the city's instinctively magnanimous response also a first, and now Salaam Mumbai has become a formula, to be expected each time we are struck and struck again.

Watching this spirit reduced to an impossibly unbelievable fairy tale applauded by a voyeuristic western world, when a far superior equivalent went practically unnoticed, feels like a betrayal of sorts.

Shafik Syed, who played the spunky protagonist, Krishna, in Salaam Bombay, is now driving an auto rickshaw in the streets of Bangalore. Speaking to a news channel, he said no one remembered him or the film, and was thrilled when Mira Nair called him the other day to invite him to the re-release of Salaam Bombay that she is now planning.

And the slums in which one of the Slumdog boys lives, is being razed to the ground by the BMC this week.

So characteristic of this hyped up entertainment business - to create one week wonders, and then discard them. Fear not fellows, the real Mumbai is still here for you all, and will always be.


Rahul Jauhari said...

Interesting and admittedly true in its irony.
I had written on the furuore around Slumdog being nominated to the Oscars at
That furore got converted to accolades, frequent media spotlight on the kids etc etc and will probably fizzle out in a few weeks.

meraj said...

its all showbiz and it's all shortlived.

superbly written!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the film recommendation - I've just added this to my Netflix queue.

I saw Slumdog Millionaire and, having read the book upon which it is (very, very loosely) based, was disappointed. It was just a love story and while nicely done, no masterpiece.

Rahul Jauhari said...

Hey lynn, thanks for your comment on my site - have been struggling to find a fresh but elegant template for some time now. Hope to find one soon :-)