Agnibho Gangopadhyay

 

Film: Allah Ke Bande

Director: Faruk Kabir

Cast: Sharman Joshi, Faruk Kabir, Naseeruddin Shah, Zakir Hussain

Rating: Average

In one of Leonard Cohen’s iconic songs, Suzanne shows us where to look among the garbage and the flower, and we find children in the morning there, leaning out for love. Faruk Kabir tries to do the same with his film Allah Ke Bande, to remind us that Mumbai is indeed the city where flowers and garbage are grotesquely juxtaposed, a city thriving on lost childhoods. A noble endeavour, but the film suffers from fluctuations in the area of craft and making. The film begins with legendary pedagogue Maria Montessori’s words, “If help and salvation are to come, they can only come from the children, for the children are the makers of men.” Promising. Then on the film portrays the Mumbai that teems with raw vigour, the city of the sex worker, drug peddler, the slums and the juvenile delinquents. Away from the glitzy malls, the botox, the power yoga. Untamed, unruly fragments — that insinuate a deeply inegalitarian social order. Two boy-urchins, Vijay and Yakub, from that dark side of the divide, united by grief and deprivations, enter the world of organized crime. They represent a generation of lower-order children who have no access to education, health facilities and social security. The two boys’ leadership quality is too much for the grown-up gangsters to handle, and they are sent packing to a centre for reforming child-criminals. That place, in reality, only exacerbates the criminal proclivities of the children. An evil warden has instituted a regime of sodomy, drugs and violence. The intrepid boys gradually manage to oust the evil warden, pattern their own nexus and earn a lot of money. Their aim is to return to their slum and become the most powerful criminals in the city. They do return, and manage initial success by creating a gang of armed children. But soon their plans backfire. Yakub is killed by a boy-member of his gang, and Vijay escapes from the city. An awakened media and government run schools indicate that things may change for children. It seems however, that the director couldn’t decide what the film essentially is. A socio-political commentary? A stylised revenge flick? An 80s Bollywood style boy bonding movie? This seminal confusion permeates through the actors, the cinematography and the dialogue of the film. Sharman Joshi is strangely off-colour, Atul Kohli as the conscientious teacher trying to enlighten the slum-children fails to touch a chord, Faruk Kabir as the feisty gangster Yakub seems to be trying too hard. There are inconsistencies in diction, and the detailing varies from brilliant to pedestrian. Cinematography is stimulatingly psychedelic at some points, clichéd in others. At the end the director seems to wishfully bring together a sequence of events. Naseeruddin Shah, in the role of the perverted warden who dies a lonely, pathetic death, is brilliant as usual. And Zakir Hussain from the Ram Gopal Varma stable, in the role of a transvestite is very good. But the film as a whole doesn’t make an impact. Which is a pity, for the children of lesser god — the subject and inspiration of this film — need platforms to make their voices heard. Without their emancipation, there can be no new morning ending this darkness.

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