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Friday December 1st 2023

Salaam Bombay | 1988

Salaam Bombay poster

Former documentarist Mira Nair mixes real street kids and seasoned actors in her first fiction film, as village boy Krishna (Shafiq Syed) tries to make a living on the streets of the largest city in India, now called Mumbai.

The film was shot on real locations, guerilla-style, supposedly using 52 locations around the 14 narrow and dirty Lanes of Mumbai’s Kamathipura area. This is the city’s oldest (and Asia's second largest) red-light district, a legacy of the British Raj dating from the 1880s when the area was turned into a ‘comfort zone’ for British troops.

Krishna works as a teaboy around the neighbourhood’s main thoroughfare, Falkland Road, now Pathe Bapurao Marg. The district is east of Grant Road Station, on the Western Railway local train line in South Mumbai, between Charni Road and Mumbai Central stations. It’s at this station that Krishna hangs out with drug-dependent Chillum (Raghuvir Yadav). Grant Road itself has since been renamed Maulana Shaukat Ali Road.

The amount of prostitution in the area was supposedly reduced in the 1990s, but be aware that Kamathipura is not a ‘touristy’ area of bars and discos but a packed warren of brothels in which women are forced to work in conditions akin to slavery.

The capital of the state of Maharashtra, Mumbai was once a group of seven islands on the the western coast, which gradually became joined together. The resulting city of Bombay (derived from the Portuguese ‘Bom Bahia’ – Beautiful Bay) was officially renamed in 1995.