BOOT POLISH(1954) - Boot Polish is an awesome creation about world seen through child eyes.This film ranks as one of the finest thought provoking social dramas asking how we look at ourselves given the limited resources and choices and faced with overwhelming odds. Raj Kapoor's presentation of the humble lifestyle of two children who wish to overcome the obstacles of abject poverty shows the importance of the spirit of endurance and dedication in the face of adversity. We can view deeply in film when children try to face challenges in the world created by greedy souls. I saw this film once when I was a small child of 8 years and I never forgot some scene of it till today. Some scenes are still floating in front of my eyes.
Boot Polish is a pure example of Classical Hindi cinema that made its presence in the world. It is filled with songs and dances, stylized skill in Cinematography, idealized characters, myriad sub-plots, and in end with an inspiring message. Though technically not a musical, the joyous and hypnotic songs on the soundtrack are interwoven into the plot in a way that both enhances the drama and reminds you that it is a “movie” not a boring documentary. It won the 1953/54 Filmfare awards for best picture, best supporting actor, and best cinematography. Director Prakash Arora was nominated for Golden Palm and Baby Naaz won special mention to a child actress at Cannes Film Festival (1954). It was really a moment of proud for any sensible cinema loving Indian.
It is really a movie worth watching in context to any cinema in the world on the condition of children in slum areas. Struggle for survival of both children is depicted wonderfully in movie that makes you disturb again and again as you watch it. The movie tells a human story of two destitute children belonging to a slum area in Bombay. BHOLA an innocent boy of ten and his younger sister BELU aged seven shares an uncertain future when their mom dies in the plague, and their dad is imprisoned. Their aunt, KAMLA CHACHI is woman of low morals, a distant relative who had provided the kids with sleeping space in her shed. They are then left in the uncaring care of cruel aunt, who works as a prostitute in slums of the city. They were well trained in the art of begging by her so that they can earn their living for their needs and do not become load to her. The worse thing a child faces when someone takes their life of childhood and put them in the cruel and greedy world to stand on their own feet. She is cruel, abusive and forces them to take to a life of begging on the local trains, on beaches and crowded areas in Bombay. The constant abuses and beatings from aunt had made the lives of these kids an absolute hell. The age of innocence becomes age of suffering for the children. This is how they grew up in this world of humankind. Now, they want to lead a respectable life. Their only ray of hope was the neighbour, JOHN an old eccentric man with a sharp tongue but a golden heart. He earned his living by polishing shoes in the streets of Bombay. With the help of John they get a shoe-shine kit and start shining shoes on busy sidewalks and railway platforms. Their John's simple words ""Starve, die, but don't beg. Do something with your two hands"" - inspired the kids to stop begging and start the work of polishing boots. The idea of shining shoes fascinated him so much he resolved to become a bootblack. A new sense of dignity and pride comes to the Bhola when he started to do this work of shining shoes or boot polish. Their destinies face more uncertainty when enraged Kamla finds out about their new-found profession. She beats them up and turned out of the house for not begging and polishing boots instead. They temporarily seek shelter with John, but the arrest of John took from their lives the little love and consolation they had. They were left crying and helpless with no one to go to with their troubles.
Things become bad to worse when Bombay enters the monsoon season, when people do not get their shoes shined; Hours passed and they couldn't get any business. The ceaseless rain has spoiled their chances of getting a single customer. They ran from station to station, from street to street only to be disappointed. Belu started crying and wanted Bhola to beg for some money so that she could get something to eat. A great conflict rose in his mind. He had sworn not to beg but his beloved sister was fainting from hunger. His troubles and trails mounted up to a new pitch of pathos till the question ""BEG or DIE"", poses itself once again. That is really a zenith of the internal crisis of a child. One cannot fight with the own conscious when he sees the plight and misery of his owns in front of the hunger. In order bring food to his sister, bhola went away. Then the duo is separated in that situation- with Belu adopted by a rich family. When she asks about Bhola, she is told that he is dead. The question remains is Bhola really dead, if not, what has been his fate? But when the darkness seems to take over everything, a single ray of light seems more encouraging than anything. One day she saw a bhola selling some articles on the street. She runs behind him and then Bhola, Belu and John Chacha met again on the cross roads of life. The trials and troubles of world were left behind; a new world of love and respect awaited them. This was the end of one period and the beginning of another. In their shining eyes and faces, the future of the children of the coming generation was glimpsed."
I find the movie a life-affirming and rich cinematic experience. The love of brother and sister for each other is very real, and their struggle for survival and social respectability is profoundly touching. Filled with positive energy and the "heroic face of innocence” Boot Polish is now more than ever one of my all time favourite classical films. I would recommend this film as a lesson in the triumph of the human spirit when facing the evils of man made adversity. We probably can relate to the two young characters of the film in our day to day lives. Life can be unfair and unjust, and films such as BOOT POLISH show the more dramatic encounters of what we call the human struggle not only to survive but to go forward with esteem in life. Read here a scene from boot polish.
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