Raj Kapoor once famously said "There is no difficulty such that you cannot overcome it and no height such that you cannot reach it; you must keep trying."
Boot Polish (1954) made under the RK banner perfectly symbolizes this never say die spirit. It is one of the finest movies on the subject of children, to have graced the Bollywood horizon and I will treat this one at par with the recent blockbuster Taare Zameen Par (2007).
The story is about the relationship between a ten-year old boy, Bhola (Rattan Kumar) and his seven-year old sister Belu (Baby Naaz). The children are without parents. They live in a slum area in Bombay with Kamla, a cold and unloving relative, who forces them to beg to stay alive. Bhola and Belu undergo verbal and physical abuse from Kamla when they don't bring home enough money each day. Their only friend is a neighbor, John Chacha (David Abraham), who operates an illegal business of selling liquor.
John Chacha provides the kids with the emotional warmth they need and tells them not to beg but to find some work. "Starve, die, but don't beg. Do something with your two hands", he says and instructs them in the art of polishing shoes. Bhola and Belu gradually become proficient in their trade and eke out a living, refusing to take alms. Then the monsoon rains arrive and their business suffers. In addition, John's arrest takes from them the little love and comfort they had. Beg or die is the question that the children must now face. Then along come a couple who were longing for a child of their own and decide to adopt Belu and thus the brother and sister get separated.
The child actors Rattan Kumar and Naaz perform admirably and it is pity that they could not replicate their childhood performances in the later years in senior roles. Rattan Kumar also gave memorable performances in Do Bigha Zameen and Jaagriti. David ekes out a career best performance in the role of John Chacha. Other actors donâ€™t have much scope to perform. Raj Kapoor gives a 10 second appearance in the movie when he appears in the Train sitting casually in his Shri 420 getup which was being made during the same time.
Though the direction is attributed to Prakash Arora, assistant to the "great showman" Raj Kapoor; the buzz goes around that when Kapoor took one look at the rush prints he realized he had made a mistake in assigning it to Arora, and then re-shot the entire film himself.
The film won the 1953/54 Filmfare awards (India's version of the Oscars) for best picture, best supporting actor for David and best cinematography. Hasrat Jaipuri wrote the lyrics for this movie and Shankar Jaikishan gave the music. The song â€śNanhe Munhe Bachche Teri Mutthiâ€ť by Mohd. Rafi and Asha Bhosle is still very much popular. Other songs like â€śTher Jara Janewaleâ€ť and â€śTu Badhta Chalâ€ť were also very popular.
A film that every kid in India should see and a film where the slum scenes are better picturized than even the recent Oscar winning Slumdog Millionaire (2009). Watch out for the scene where David is taken away by the policeman and a small kid burst into aggression and says â€śGhooma ghooma ke maroongaâ€ť and is uncontrollable.