Mumbai’s King starts with sweeping vistas of the Indian city known for being the home of Bollywood. New houses are rising up next to slums. The city is a changing landscape, but it’s this change that makes it a fascinating playground for children.
The film’s director, Manjeet Singh, is the newest member of India’s hip, independent movie scene. It’s cinema that is more Satyajit Ray than Shah Rukh Khan. Born out of the traditions of Italian neo-realism, Singh’s film is the flip side of Slumdog Millionaire, where the harsh realities of being poor in a bustling, growing city are not masked by an improbable fantasy.
“There are some things borrowed from my childhood,” says Singh, “things I used to do with my friends, such as stealing potatoes. The other thing was to capture the Ganesh festival in its full glory, as I think no other film has really captured that.”
Rahul (Rahul Bairaji) doesn’t want to stay at home, where his alcoholic father regularly beats him. He takes sanctuary on the streets with his friends, the balloon seller Arbaaz (Arbaaz Khan) and the street-smart Salman (Salman Khan) and they spend their days pulling pranks and stealing potatoes. The film covers the mischief that they get up to during the hubbub of the festival.
“We used local kids in the roles because they are comfortable in the environment. I also didn’t have a budget to pay the standard union rates so we started the film as a way to have fun,” says the mild-mannered director. “I told the kids: ‘Have fun and I shall pay you pocket money.’”
Mumbai’s King screens tomorrow at 3.45pm at Marina Mall’s Vox 4 Cinema and on Sunday at 9.15pm, at Vox 6