Mumbai: In 1998, Iranian film-maker Majid Majidi’s Children of Heaven was nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar (it lost out to Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful). In 2010, Priyadarshan attempts an official Indian remake.
It’s heartening to note that in an industry which leans on the term “inspired” to gloss over the reality that something is a “copy”, in this case the opening credits clearly acknowledge Children of Heaven and Majidi for the story. While it largely sticks to the original story (sometimes without cultural adjustments), there are some additions which derail the plot and add cumbersome length.
An opportunity lost: Darsheel Safary (left) and Ziyah Vastani.
Set somewhere in North-East India, the film orbits around Khogiram’s family. Living a hand-to-mouth existence as labourers on a tea estate, Khogiram (played by Atul Kulkarni) and his wife (Rituparna Sengupta) earn a meagre income with which they struggle to raise their two children and admit them to the best schools. But when the manager makes an unacceptable overture towards his wife, Khogiram punches the manager and loses his job. Khogiram’s family has no choice but to subsist on loans and debts.
Both children, Pinu (Darsheel Safary) and Rimzim (Ziyah Vastani), help with chores. One day Pinu goes to get his younger sister’s only pair of shoes repaired. But he loses them, and knowing his father (who is constantly yelling at him) cannot afford a replacement, the siblings share Pinu’s only pair of shoes. They hatch a plan where she wears the shoes to school in the morning, and—since his school starts later —he wears them to school in the afternoon. Having to wait for Rimzim at the crossroads where they swap footwear, Pinu is often reprimanded for being late to school.
Life in the hill state is not just one of economic struggle, but also one affected by political instability. This is the main deviation from Majidi’s original. One feels a resonance of Santosh Sivan’s Tahaan and Piyush Jha’s Sikandar, which also explore how innocent children and their naive desires are exploited by insurgents. Heartbroken at seeing his sister make sacrifices because of his error, Pinu is determined to get her a new pair of shoes. He devises many plans, the main one being to enter a marathon race where the third prize is a pair of sports shoes. He plans to come?third in the race and promises his sister a shiny new pair of shoes. But not all plans work out.
Simultaneously, Khogiram’s efforts at finding gainful employment hit roadblocks. His cynicism and pessimism is offset by the children’s sensitivity and purity. But this is underutilized by Priyadarshan and compromised by the producers, who convert what should have been a dramatic and heart-wrenching finish into a big-screen commercial for a couple of brands.
Bumm Bumm Bole is not the most inspiring title, but the story is. Unfortunately, Priyadarshan’s direction and the storywriter’s adaptation are complete letdowns. The children, while cute, are unable to win over the audience, largely due to little effort from the director to guide them adequately in complex and nuanced roles. Hence, the experience is devoid of poignancy or pathos. As for the adults, besides the dependable Kulkarni, the rest overact. Sengupta’s make-up and contact lenses change shades as the film progresses. There are many other continuity lapses, such as the colours of Pinu’s coats, Safary’s corrective braces, which are seen in some scenes but not in others, and the differing accents of the actors, which make it hard to geographically locate the film.
On the upside, the opening credits are fresh and child-like. But this is not enough to enjoy Bumm Bumm Bole. In the hands of the right team, the film could have been an opportunity to capture the magic of the original.
Bumm Bumm Bole released in theatres on Friday.