Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Salaam Bombay!

Since Parasite Eve last time got me thinking about videogames, I will continue to bring them up, even for Salaam Bombay! Specifically, game music, since a rather odd song at the start of the film got me started on this strange and unprecedented path. See, game music, for the most part, has no obvious end, because of purely technical reason. It has to linger in the background, able to go unnoticed when you don't want to be, yet important to the overall experience.

Salaam Bombay! strives to accomplish the same thing, as a comment on the poverty in Bombay itself. The characters in the film are part of a class that is deliberately unnoticed by most of society, but a large piece of the whole. Plus, the inherent repetitive nature translates here too, to emphasize how the cycle of poverty is inescapable by most of the people caught up in it.

The story is about Krishna (Shafiq Syed, who had no acting experience), who owes his mother 500 rupees, and goes to work in an attempt to raise it. First he works in a circus, before it abandons him, and then he goes to Bombay, working on the streets and getting caught up with criminals and prostitutes, finding himself in situations which cause his meager savings to disappear and disintegrate. He strives to make his life better, but life itself conspires to keep it from happening.

With poverty as the background music of life, it's telling that the movie makes no real effort to draw attention to itself. For a film with an exclamation point in its title, there is very little actual story happening, just the day to day life of the people caught up in it. While there is an overarching plot, it takes its time, moving in and out of focus as it becomes relevant to the overall portrait it paints.

As well, it sets itself up for infinite repetition. When characters die, and mistakes are made, it often will come up with a replacement and a situation which mirrors one that happened in the recent past. Especially late in the movie, as the original plots wind down, you begin to find many new stories start up again, referencing the existing ones. In the last scene, there's a sense that while the melody might be running down, the music is just going to start again.

I might not have necessarily liked it, but it is a success, making a comment on the unending cycle of poverty (while doing its part to change that, through programs to get kids off of the streets and into a better life) and managing to show poverty as simultaneously ignored and ever present. It is the background music of life, and no matter what people do, that melody is just going to repeat.

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