Event: Jugaad Urbanism Film Series: Salaam Bombay!
Location: Center for Architecture, 02.25.11
Speakers: Mira Nair — Director, “Salaam Bombay!;” Aseem Chhabra — Director, Indo-American Arts Council
Introduction: Aroon Shivdasani — President & Executive Director, Indo-American Arts Council
Organizers: Center for Architecture; Indo-American Arts Council; The New School; Society of Indo-American Engineers and Architects
Sponsors: Grants: Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts; National Endowment for the Arts; Underwriter: Duggal Visual Solutions; Lead Sponsors: Hitachi; Robert A.M. Stern Architects; Sponsors: Grapevine Merchants; Society of Indo-American Engineers and Architects; Supporters: Bittersweet NYC; CetraRuddy; Kingfisher LGER; Friends: Arup; Benjamin Moore; IBEX Construction; Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates; Perkins Eastman; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Special Thanks: Umberto Dindo, AIA; Lutz Konermann; Catherine Scharf; Consulate General of Switzerland
Before “Monsoon Wedding” put her in the international spotlight, Mira Nair’s 1988 directorial debut, “Salaam Bombay!” went on to win more than 25 international awards, including the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Shot on location in Bombay, she used real street kids as actors who received dramatic training at a workshop before production started.
Jugaad means “clever and resourceful” in Hindi, and a Jugaadu is a person who can get a job done by using easy-to-find materials without spending a lot of money. The current exhibition at the Center for Architecture, “Jugaad Urbanism,” shows solutions to big problems facing many people living in India’s cities. Clearly, the child actors in the film are jugaadus. They form small, close-knit groups and take on any menial task that comes their way to exist in the colorful, cacophonous, albeit slums, of Bombay.
In the film, the kids swagger like Bollywood stars to draw attention when in public, and they certainly have moments of desperation when alone, but they generally show no signs of self-pity. Their behavior, Nair said at the post-film screening Q&A, earned both her respect and concern for their welfare when filming.
Nair used the film’s profits to establish the Salaam Baalak Trust, which opened its first center in Bombay/Mumbai in 1989. The center provides a safety net of services for street kids, including all aspects of child development, from physical, medical, educational, and social, to vocational needs. To date, there are 25 centers serving 5,000 kids in Mumbai and Delhi. When asked “can art change the world?” her answer was simply “yes,” and it is evident in her body of work and her work with the trust.
“Salaam Bombay!” is part of the Jugaad Urbanism Film Series that screens films on Friday nights through 04.15.11.
Linda G. Miller is a NYC-based freelance writer and publicist, and a contributing editor to e-Oculus and OCULUS.