Therefore, it’s heartening to see this year’s Mumbai International Film Festival introduce a special competition section for these gems, titled ‘India Gold’.
One of the films being screened here is Manjeet Singh’s ‘Mumbai Cha Raja’. On the outside, the story of the film’s making is the same all small, new filmmakers face, mainly lack of funding. After the film was seleted for the City to City section of the recently-concluded Toronto International Film Festival, Singh had taken to the internet to raise money to complete the post-production of the film.
He told The Times of India: "On the surface there seems to be so much support for the Indie films. But often, people projected as the saviors of independent cinema don't even have time to watch the film. The corporates, who pretend to support Independent cinema, do not even reply to emails. What's worse is that often people call themselves independent makers when all that they do is watch hundreds and thousands of films, lifting ideas from them and making pretentious Hindi films. Despite my movie being at TIFF, I am still struggling to raise a total sum of Rs 85 lakh for it!" says Manjeet, adding, "Our only hope is to get funds from people who would love to see the spirit of the less fortunate kids of Mumbai unfold on the world stage and hopefully change their lives."
The trailer looks good. There’s Mumbai, its high-rises and its slums, there is a slum boy, there’s a balloon-seller, there’s domestic violence, there’s Ganapati festival, there’s friendship, there’s roasted potatoes.... things that will remind you of a lot of films, from ‘Salaam Bombay’ to ‘Slumdog Millionaire’... Yet, the film has got a good buzz. There’s hope.
The trailer Here.
Set during the grand festival devoted to Lord Ganesha, when huge idols of the elephant headed God are taken in procession to the beach for immersion, Mumbai Cha Raja tells the story of Rahul who has to handle the chaos in his life amidst the chaos of the colorful and vibrant festival.More Here.
Rahul is a misunderstood and troubled adolescent who lives in the slums bordering the nouveau riche areas of Northern Mumbai. Rahul lives with his alcoholic and violent father, hard working mother and younger brother Babu and spends time with his balloon seller and streetwise friend, Arbaaz. These two kids escape the grim realities of their lives by gambling, roasting stolen potatoes, stealing an auto rickshaw for a joyride, and chasing girls.
Says the director: “When I was in school, an Aunt lost her little daughter and we searched for her everywhere. When found by a neighbor, she said,” My mother is lost”. This incident made me imagine a child’s interpretation of his/her own world. This incident was the start of what would eventually become the inspiration behind Mumbai Cha Raja.”
Manjeet Singh talks to Nandita Dutta of Dear Cinema about the film, after it was selected for TIFF: What is Mumbai Cha Raja about?
It’s a salute to the spirit of the under privileged kids of Mumbai who find joy in things which might seem trivial to the society, and enjoy life to the fullest, in-spite of the problems they face .... [ The starting point for the film] ...was a cumulative effect of my childhood memories: a feature script I had written about the kids who sing in Mumbai local train; desire to capture the beauty of the Ganesh festival in the city and charming balloon seller kid Arbaaz, whom I wanted to see on the big screen. [Funds for making the film]... I started the film with zero account balance. The support came in mainly from the family. Then the friends also chipped in. We also tried crowd funding in desperate situation for post-production funds. Somehow we have managed to take the film this far.More here.
Singh’s hero is Rahul, a teen whose drunken father and long suffering mother could hardly be expected to make a happy home for the boy. He drops out of school, befriends a younger boy who sells balloons, and together they set out to a lead a life of pranks, deriving from these what can be seen as harmless fun. Often battered by his father, though loved and cared by his stepmother, Rahul roams the streets of Mumbai, where money is the mantra and crime a way of life, particularly in the city’s slums. Rahul and balloon-seller Arbaz help Singh explore this grimy underbelly during one rain-soaked Ganesh festival. Singh does uncover the fascinating life beyond this dark existence. There is a wonderful camaraderie among the people, whose poverty and misery seldom stop them from caring and sharing. And when Rahul’s kid stepbrother is found missing, the crisis the family faces serves as a reminder that tragedy unites men, whatever be the animosity among them.More Here.
Although Mumbai Cha Raja does appear to have been inspired by films like City of God and Slumdog Millionaire, Singh disagrees during a freewheeling chat at Abu Dhabi’s magnificent Emirates Palace Hotel, whose miles of marble mesmerise the visitor. ”I have been inspired by life around me”, he says, the note of conviction unmistakable in his gentle voice. “Some of the events you see in my movie have been taken from my own childhood, the pranks we used to play with friends. I distinctly remember the slums close to where I grew up in Mumbai, which was next to Film City. The whole place used to come alive during the Ganesh Festival, and I wanted to capture this beautiful cocktail of joy and sorrow, celebration and misfortune…”
Singh sets his story of a dysfunctional family against this backdrop of gaiety and merriment of the religious festival, contrasting the cheerlessness of the slum existence with moments of cheerfulness. There is this television mechanic, who is drunk for most of his waking hours, and his second wife (the first had killed herself) works as a maid, stoically bearing the humiliation and the beating heaped on her by her husband. She puts on a brave smile. Rahul played by Rahul Bairagi is her stepson, and she also has her own little child. Rahul runs away from home, unable to bear his father’s beastliness, and how this leads to a crisis forms the rest of the tale.
Check out the Mumbai International Film Festival site here. The fest is open from October 18 to 25, 2012.
The films to be screened in ‘India Gold’
1 Kathaa/ Prashant Rasaily (India (Sikkimese) / 2012 / Col. / 142')
2 Miss Lovely/ Ashim Ahluwalia (India / 2012 / Col. / 110')
3 The Bright Day/ Mohit Takalkar (India (Hindi-English) / 2012 / Col. / 91')
4 Kurmavatara (The Tortoise, An Incarnation)/ Girish Kasaravalli (India (Kannada) / 2011 / Col. / 125')
5 Investment/ Ratnakar Matkari (India (Marathi) / 2012 / Col. / 122')
6 Pune 52/ Nikhil Mahajan (India (Marathi) / 2012 / Col. / 135')
7 Mumbai Cha Raja Manjeet Singh (India (Marathi-Hindi) / 2012 / Col. / 77')
8 Shyamal Uncle Turns Off The Lights/ Suman Ghosh (India / 2012 / Col. / 73â€™)
9 Shahid/ Hansal Mehta (India / 2012 / Col. / 123')
10 Baandhon/ Jahnu Barua (India / 2012 / Col. / 96')
11 I.D./ Kamal K.M. (India / 2012 / Col. / 90')
12 BMW/ Aditya Bhattacharya (India / 2012 / Col.)
13 Samhita/ (The Script) Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukthankar (India (Marathi) / 2012 / Col. / 138')
14 BP (Balak Palak)/ Ravi Jadhav (India (Marathi) / 2012 / Col. / 109')