Money matters in Mumbai make men miserable.
Available in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, and maybe some other countries. The stated running time varies, but the movie that I have seen on DVD and Amazon Prime is approximately 92 minutes.
Three men live in a little apartment in a poor section of Mumbai.
Shukla is an older man, who officially has not existed for fifteen years. His relatives had kicked him out of his village and told the government that he was dead so that they could get his stuff. He tries to return, but gets assaulted. When he complains to the local authorities, they dismiss him, arguing that the man whom he claims to be is dead. 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 with big dreams and small means. He tries (and kind of succeeds) to charm a local girl into overlooking the fact that he owes her family money; at least he tries to when avoiding her is impossible. He is also on friendly terms with a European woman named Kate who frequents the restaurant, though his semi-competent English and her barely competent Hindi makes things a little awkward. He tries to impress her in the hopes of taking things further, but eventually learns that she has money troubles of her own.
Yadav is a watchman at a rich condo. He sometimes has to work multiple shifts and meekly submits to verbal abuse from the rich tenants who sometimes give him conflicting orders without actually checking with each other. He wants to quit, but what else can he do? He is, for example, a terrible driver. So, is content to wallow in misery and cynicism.
Despite their different experiences and personalities, the three men manage to get along and live together in relative peace, spending their days joking and griping about their lives.
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 don’t trust him or they simply don’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.
Then…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 92 minutes long…or 97 minutes long if Wikipedia is to be believed. In any case, this could have easily have been 148 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 it simply being due to 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. A more mainstream Bollywood film would have milked the second half for all that it was worth, but this is a Hindi Indie. So, 92 minutes it is.
Like Jakarta, this movie is a rather cynical comedy, though slightly different in tone. The characters end up doing something that is…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. I mean, this is not Joker or Parasite, but still…
The movie depicts Mumbai…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. And, yeah, maybe it focuses primarily on the respect due to men, with Aman and Shukla having to navigate around women of higher means while Yadev is just emasculated at every turn.
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.
WTF ASIA 84: Japanese Summer: Double Suicide (Japan: 1967, approx. 99 minutes)
WTF ASIA 85: Infernal Affairs (Hong Kong: 2002, approx. 101 minutes)