Cast: Shams Patel,Salman,Fayyaz,Jaffer,Sakshi,Raghuveer Yadav,Barry John,Ranvir Shorey,Alok Nath,Yatin Karyekar
Director: Irfan Kamal
After ‘Road,Movie,this is the other movie releasing this week at home after gathering accolades on the international festival circuit. Its been out there longer,since 2007,but it hasnt made the story any less relevant : ‘Thanks,Maa is about a bunch of spunky street kids in Mumbai,and the gigantic odds they have to wrestle with just to exist.
Municipality ( Patel,whos got the national award as best child actor for his role ) and his gang get by with a bit of stealing : pockets and purses are deftly picked from harassed commuters on locals,and some of the proceeds are turned in for other nefarious purposes. One evening,Municipality finds an abandoned baby,and picks him up. His idea is to restore the baby to his mother,who,he is convinced ,must be devastated. The journey to find the babys rightful mother is peppered with the kind of people urchins have to contend with : remand home bosses who prey upon little boys,harsh cops,greedy ‘hijras,adulterous husbands,pimps and prostitutes.
The biggest strength of Kamals hard-hitting debut film is its children and their incredibly life-like performance. All of them,except Patel,were selected from the slums,and it is evident that they are not really acting for the camera,even though their language seems more filled with invective than it needs to. Also,sometimes the high sleaze factor seems exploitative : Alok Nath unzipping his pants as he lunges at the little boy,or Yatin Karyekar stroking his daughter in a most un-father like manner could have been picturised with a little subtlelety. Pulling a punch can often be more effective.
The other thing the director proves is that there is no need for big ticket stars to make a film with an unwavering,clear-eyed point-of-view : nowhere does ‘Thanks Maa,dedicated to abandoned babies in the most tragic circumstances,make any concessions to those of us who live in sanitized environments. This is a film hard to watch,but it is a film that needs to be watched. Pity its come into theatres unpublicized.