Salaam Bombay! (1988) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • The boy Krishna is abandoned by his mother at the Apollo Circus and she tells him that he can only return home when he can afford 500 rupees to pay for the bicycle of his brother that he had trashed. Krishna is left behind by the circus and he takes a train to Bombay. Krishna is called Chaipau by the street children of Bombay and he works delivering and selling tea for Chacha, who owns a street bar. Krishna befriends the heroin addicted Chillum that sells drugs for the drug dealer and caftan Baba Golub, and the girl Manju Golub, who is the daughter of Baba with the prostitute Rekha Golub. Krishna dreams on saving 500 rupees to return home, but the life on the streets of Bombay is not easy.

  • The story of Krishna, Manju, Chillum and the other children on the streets of Bombay. Sometimes they can get a temporary job selling tea, but mostly they have to beg for money and keep out of the way of the police.

  • Fed-up of being continuously bullied by his elder brother, Krishna sets fire to his motor-bike, and this gets him into big trouble with his mother. She takes him to the nearby Apollo Circus, and tells him that he can only come home after he earns Rs.500/- to pay for the damaged bike. Krishna agrees to do so and finds employment with the circus. One day the Circus Boss asks him to run an errand, and when Krishna returns back he finds that the circus has packed up and traveled elsewhere. Alone, with nowhere to turn to, and unable to find Rs.500 to repay his mother, he decides to travel to the nearest big city - which is Bombay. Upon his arrival in Bombay, he is robbed of all his meager possessions. He follows the thieves, and befriends them. He ends up in Bombay's notorious red-light area of Falkland Road near Grant Road Railway Station. One of the thieves, Chillum, also a drug pusher and addict, helps Krishna get a job with the owner of a tea stall "Grant Road Tea Stall". Krishna's gets a new name "Chaipau", and learns to live with it. His goal is to get the Rs.500 and return home to his mother. Krishna soon finds out that saving money with his surroundings and people near him is next to impossible. To make matters worse, he has a crush on a young prostitute, Sola Saal, he sets fire to her room and attempts to elope with her - in vain. This gets him a severe beating, and he also loses his job. He works odd jobs to feed himself, and look after Chillum, who cannot live without his drugs. He and his pals also rob an elderly Parsi man of his belongings by breaking into his house in broad daylight. One night while returning home, he and several of his friends are apprehended by the police, and taken to a juvenile home. But this detention was not to last very long, as Krishna escapes, and goes back to his world - the world of drug-pushers, pimps, prostitutes, and nurture his dream of someday going back to his mother.


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  • This is a superb film that gives the viewer a bird's eye view into the plight of India's urban street children. It is done through the experience of young Krishna, an illiterate, country bumpkin of a boy, who is abandoned by his mother at a circus and told not to come home until he has five hundred rupees for having broken something that belonged to his brother. While Krishna is on an errand, the circus packs up and leaves town, and he is left alone to fend for himself. Krishna uses his last few rupees to travel to a city, which by luck of the draw turns out to be Bombay. Thrust into the life of the street children of Bombay, living among the pimps, hustlers, drug addicts, prostitutes, and throw away children that proliferate in India's urban settlements, a modern day jungle, Krishna struggles to survive. His resourcefulness holds him in good stead. He quickly develops some street smarts and forms attachments. He struggles to earn and save money, so that he can return home to his mother and the family whom he misses, only to be duped in the end by one whom he had trusted. His story breaks one's heart, as he learns some hard lessons in life.

    This is a gritty look into the underbelly and plight of Bombay's poor street children, who call the gutters of its filthy urban streets home. It is filled with the sights and sounds of this urban nightmare. An Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, this highly acclaimed film allows the viewer a peek at another culture, only to find that basic human needs and desires are universal.

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