With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Monday, January 09, 2012


Bhola (left) and Belu
 Boot Polish
Directed by Prakash Arora
India, 1953, 149 minutes
Where: The Museum of Modern Art
The Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building
4 West Fifty-fourth Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues, NYC

Today's second film in MoMA's Raj Kapoor and the Golden Age of Indian Cinema film series is Boot Polish. (Note that their are separate admission for Boot Polish and Barsaat, which is being shown at 4:00.) Prakash Arora, who was the second unit or assistant director on three earlier Kapoor films, is the director of record, but the film is widely thought of as having been primarily directed by Kapoor himself. (It is the only film listed at IMDb as having been directed by Arora.)

Whatever the case, the film is a real tear-jerker. Bhola (Rattan Kumar) and Belu (Kumari Naaz, billed as Baby Naaz) are left in the care of a heartless aunt after their mother has died and their father gone to prison. Forced by her to beg, they are encouraged to instead work for money by shining shoes.

The film is frequently compared to Vittorio De Sica's Shoeshine (1946), because both films center on two youngsters (both boys in Shoeshine) living in poverty who earn their keep by shining shoes. But that's really about as far as it goes. De Sica's film comes to focus on a mistaken belief of betrayal, while Boot Polish is a melodrama that centers on Indian leader Jawaharlal Nehru's campaign to help the poor find work, thereby not only improving their lot in life, but also their self-respect.

Raj Kapoor, whose R.K. Films studio produced the movie, has a brief cameo as himself in which he's asleep on a train that the children have boarded to ply their trade. Naaz, who was seven years old at the time of filming is a marvel to behold. Talented beyond her years, she is utterly guileless, a total delight to behold.

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