Thursday, July 26, 2012
|7:00 p.m.||Boot Polish|
Prakash Arora, Raj Kapoor (India, 1954)
New 35mm Print!
One of Indian cinema’s first major successes in the West (“a lovely picture!” chirped the 1958 New York Times review), Boot Polish combines Italian neorealism with Victor Hugo-like flourishes and pointed Indian social(ist) commentary in its tale of two adorable orphans dealing with homelessness, the law, and organized begging. Beyond the film’s brilliant musical set pieces, comedic relief, and tear-jerking force lies a script embodying Nehru-era reforms and proudly self-determinist nationalism; the kids shout “Hail to Mahatma Gandhi!” in one scene, and cutely sing “the fruit of labor is sweet,” in a song entitled “A New Dawn Will Come” in another. “Don’t give alms; give work,” later pleads the film’s kindly heart, an oft-drunk bootlegger played by David Abraham. Adding a bit of socialist, subcontinental flavor to Hollywood’s Little Rascals vision of street life, Boot Polish has resonated through the decades, referenced in works such as Salaam, Bombay and Slumdog Millionaire. While credited to Raj Kapoor’s assistant Prakash Arora, Kapoor supposedly reshot the entire film himself.
• Written by Bhanu Pratap. Photographed by Tara Dutt. With Ratan Kumar, Baby Naaz, David Abraham (known as David). (149 mins, In Hindi with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm)