Money matters in Mumbai make men miserable.
Approximately 90 minutes.
Three men live in a little apartment in a poor section of Mumbai. Shukla is an older man, who officially has not existed since 1994, when his relatives kicked him out of his village and told the government that he was dead so that they could get his stuff. He currently works as the driver for a wealthy family, and the wife is particularly mean, scolding him for braking too hard when a homeless child gets in the way for the car, complaining that he smells bad, and then later accusing him of theft. Aman is a young handsome waiter who tries (and kind of succeeds) to charm a local girl into forgetting that he owes her family money as he tries to woo an Italian woman who has money troubles of her own. Yadav is a watchman at a rich condo, who sometimes has to work multiple shifts and meekly submits to verbal abuse from the rich tenants who sometimes give him conflicting orders without actually talking to each other. Despite their different experiences and personalities, the three men manage to get along and live together in relative peace, spending their days griping about their lives and joking.
Yadav had left his wife and young son to work in Mumbai, but the money that he makes does not seem to be enough. When his son falls sick, he tries to ask all of the rich people whom he knows for a small loan to pay for hospital expenses. They either donâ€™t trust him or they simply donâ€™t feel like paying, despite it being a relatively small amount. He is on the verge of breaking down when Shukla gives him some money. Yadav goes to send the money to his wife, but a pickpocket steals it. Perhaps resigned to the thought of his son dying from a totally treatable illness, Yadav sinks into utter despair. Thenâ€¦something happens, and everything begins to change.
The change is slow at first, but it gets faster and faster as the movie goes on. Seriously. This movie is around 90 minutes longâ€¦or 97 minutes long if Wikipedia is to be believed. In any case, this could have easily have been 147 minutes long, given the amount of storyline that gets crammed into the last third of the movie. This is not a knock on the film at all, just an observation about how the movie has a pace and structure that is quite different from movies with somewhat similar stories. If I wanted to guess a reason for this truncated storyline outside of the budget, perhaps the filmmaker wanted to have the movie split into two halves, with one half being the dreary everyday lives of the protagonists and the other half being all of the changes. Thus, the second and third acts were kind of smushed together to denote just how quickly everything escalates. It caught me off guard the first time that I watched it, but I appreciated it.
Like Jakarta, this movie is a rather cynical comedy, though slightly different in tone. The characters end up doing something that isâ€¦questionable. The odd thing about it is that the movie seems to take a side regarding whether this act is justified, but it is hard for me to figure out if it says that it is or not. For sure, what they do is hardly as bad as what I have seen characters do in other movies. It is this narrative uncertainty, however, that gives the movie a slightly unsettling quality.
The movie depicts Mumbaiâ€¦and maybe India in general, as being one of crime and huge class differences. Police are shown to be unreliable, incompetent, or just plain corrupt. Not all of the rich characters are shown to be bad people, but they do not really do all that much to keep other rich people from treating poor people like dirt. This is hardly new stuff, but the way the movie goes about it makes this a special little film. The movie is about money, the lack of money, the need of money, and the power of money. At the same time, it is also about respect, be that respect from others or self-respect. These three men struggle to maintain their dignity, and financial dependence is making it difficult for them to do so. Money and pride may not necessarily be the same thing, but it is easy for them to get intertwined.
I could not find an online streaming version of this movie that had subtitles, and the DVD that I got from the library has subtitles that are a little iffy in parts. Still, if you can find it anywhere, I would recommend it.
Next Time: AV Idol (Japan: 2012, approx. 100 minutes)
Time After Next: Infernal Affairs (Hong Kong: 2002, approx. 100 minutes)