Irfan Kamal’s Thanks Maa ends with this nugget of information: 270 children are abandoned in Indian hospitals every day. Kamal and Vishal Vijay Kumar’s story tracks one such abandoned child, rescued from outside a remand home by a street child (Shams Patel) called Muncipality Ghatkopar. His four friends, who sleep at the same place, support Municipality’s mission to reunite the two-day-old boy with his mother.
The film is packed with every possible social evil: drug abuse, prostitution, paedophilia, corrupt cops, petty crimes, infidelity and child trafficking. While this makes the film inordinately depressing and protracted, Kamal manages to balance it with some realistic, yet witty writing. Shooting on actual locations using sync sound adds to the grit.
Realistic: Shams Patel (left) won the National Award for his role.
Technically, the film appears shoddy. The camerawork is often haphazard and the editing doesn’t add any momentum to the grim proceedings. The baby, who hardly cries and is rarely fed, is a jarring aberration in a film that’s so determined to be realistic.
One of Kamal’s triumphs is the casting. All five boys are from the same slum in Mumbai where Danny Boyle found his stars for Slumdog Millionaire. Moments of tenderness between Muncipality and the baby are heartwarming.
Patel wins you over with his subtle and earnest performance, quite in contrast to several of the adult actors (Alok Nath, Ranvir Shorey, Sanjay Mishra), who overact. Patel’s talent and hard work resulted in his winning the National Award for best child artist—he certainly deserves it.
Thanks Maa released in theatres on Friday.