Thanks Maa

OT Poster
Film: Thanks Maa
Cast: Shams, Salman, Almas, Jaffer, Fayyaz
Genre: Drama
Direction: Irfan Kamal
Duration: 2 hours

Story: Muncipalty Ghatkopar, a street kid in Mumbai, finds a two-month baby abandoned on the steps of a children's home. He begins a hunt for the infant's mother because he does not want him to grow up motherless like him. His friends, other street kids, help him in this towering mission.

Movie Review: It is important to point out one fact that might help you view Thanks Maa with a totally different perspective. Irfan Kamal's film on slummy street kids was first screened at the International Film Festival at Goa in 2008. Which means, it was made before Slumdog Millionaire, the film that swept the world with its take on Indian kids who survive and succeed despite the mean streets of Mumbai.

But no, it did not have the backing of Hollywood, the roar of the Oscars, the international marketing blitzkrieg...hence it's relative obscurity and its delay in the release which unfortunately, for no fault of its own, might just give it a has-been feel. But don't let the strange marketing logic of unconventional Indian cinema beguile you, because Thanks Maa is a film that will make you cry and laugh, even as it fills you with admiration and warmth for the next decrepit kid you see on the red light, running nose et al.

What strikes you at the onset is the authenticity of the film. Having used a sterling cast of kids literally drawn from the underbelly of Mumbai, the film anchors their story too in the grime and dust of the megapolis that seems to be brimming over with jagged and broken souls. So, you have our heroes -- the bunch of street kids -- living off the local train stations, picking pockets, polishing shoes and sharing their booty on an abandoned terrace before retiring for the night at home: a dilapidated car in a junk yard. It's here that young Muncipalty (Shams) brings his foundling and tries to hide him from the tough cops with the help of his buddies, Dedh Shana, Cutting, Sursuri and Soda. His objective is to re-unite the baby with the mother who abandoned him. Indeed, a journey that takes him through the dregs of the city and has him meeting pimps, hookers, incestuous dads, adulterous husbands (Ranvir Shorey), drug addicts doubling over as cabbies (Sanjay Mishra), models who abandon illegitimate kids (Rukhsar), distraught mothers, paedophile caretakers (Alok Nath) of juvenile homes or what you will....All this without losing their basic goodness and innocence. For despite drawing out the devilish map of uncaring Mumbai, the director manages to retain the humaneness of the story by showcasing his protagonists as little heroes, standing up for the good and the right.

Watch out for the kids. They leave you spellbound with their guttural, gutsy act. Surprisingly, and thankfully, the Censor Board has displayed a sense of maturity too by letting them speak in hardcore street lingo (read abusive). The film, ostensibly inspired by Tsotsi, Gavin Hood's film that won the Oscar, does get a bit long-winded in the second half and the climax might seem schmaltzy, but these are forgivable in view of the sledgehammer impact of the film. It fills you with a yearning to do something, anything....

A word about:
Performances: The kids are stupendous. Young Shams has already won the National Award for his stellar act as Municipalty, the tween who plays mother to a foundling.

Dialogue: Hard-hitting, gritty and foul, the language is unapologetically real. Your senses may be shattered, but that's the way they speak, no?

Story: Irfan Kamal and Vishal Vijay Kumar get down to the brass tacks when it comes to tackling the issue of abandoned kids. Dry newspapers headlines and snippets begin to breathe with life.

Cinematography: Mumbai's underbelly comes alive through Ajay Vincent's unblinking camera's gaze

Inspiration: Loosely inspired by Gavin Hood's Tsotsi (2005) which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film.