If you are a fan of Indian films this one is charming and fun. It also has what I call a good dose of Indian reality unlike most of the films that come out of Bollywood. It might help to be aware of the peculiarities of this vast sub continent and I admit this is not a given if you have not travelled there or read about it.
I suspect though that most of what this film has to say can be enjoyed and understood by all. Finally Indian film makers are going beyond the singing and dancing love stories and delving into some real issues, but in this instance it has been done in an endearing way.
The film is set in Chennai - so the script is in Tamil - another facet of India that needs some consideration. There is no Indian language as such, but hundreds of local languages and some significant regional ones and in the South the predominant language spoken is Tamil. The director of the film M Manikandan is a Tamil and his film won an Indian award as best children's film but he explained it was more a film with children in it then a children's film.
"Slumdog Millionaire", a film which found great appeal, started this genre of interesting scripts but did end up with a very Bollywood song and dance. There is a little music in this one too but it is mainly background.
It tells the story of two little boys very ably played by V Ramesh, Little Crow's Egg, and J Vignesh, Big Crow's Egg,who live in a Chennai slum with their mother (Aishwarya Rajesh) and grandmother (Shanti Mani). We soon find out that their father is in the TB ward of a prison for offences which are not clear and it seems the lawyer is not managing to progress his case very well and wants more money which the mother can ill afford.
She is struggling to make ends meet and relies on her mother in law for some baby sitting of the boys. When you start watching the film, you soon realise that Indian children are thrown in at the deep end and have to contribute to the household finances from a very early age, so there is minimal baby sitting involved here, though the grandmother is a person who the boys love and always ask her advice.
There are certainly no health and safety concerns when they cross busy streets, climb trees or take buses all by themselves. These two are particularly adept at getting up to mischief but also finding novel ways of making a little bit of money for their mother, whether it is picking up bits of coal from the sides of the railway lines, which they then sell on, or escorting drunken men home.
The boys see the opening of a new restaurant which sells pizza and the story revolves around them trying to get a taste of this mysterious but exciting new food.
In the course of this and without revealing too much, we have scenarios unfolding which show us the dirt and destitution of the slums, the political machinations of people in power and the corruption at all levels of society, but also the deceptions played between collaborators and the cow towing to people in authority.
These are daily occurrences and as they are played out, they give us some of the flavour of what it means to be born poor and to have to struggle for everything. We gain much insight into that great Indian spirit and the enterprising way in which so many finds ways to seek out a living.
There is no romanticising poverty in this story - what you see is what life is and for the most part it is wretched but the smiles of these children are still as broad and as sparkly white as any on the planet. Both boys are from one of the slums in Chennai and when you see how natural and lovely they are, you can't help but smile at their penchant and their determination.
The arrival of big chains and fast food in India is a real scourge. The middle classes - and we see a little bit of that in the friendship that the boys have with a rich boy - all want to dress in western clothes and eat the bland western food. They are far better off keeping to their diet of dhal and rice and vegetables instead of all this processed food. That aspect is also given an airing and rightly so because the West does not have the answer to everything as we well know. The boys come to a heartening realisation but I will let you find out what it is when you go to see the film.