Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
That Girl in Yellow Boots: Stark, unsettling cinema
Anurag Kashyap’s “That Girl in Yellow Boots” is an unsettling tale of a girl in search of the father who walked out on her as a child. Kashyap holds back very little in his narration of this tale, portraying Mumbai as a ruthless city that makes her search even more difficult than it should have been.
Kalki Koechlin plays Ruth, a British girl who comes to India hoping to find her father. She struggles in Mumbai, living as an illegal immigrant, working in a shady massage parlour, living in squalid conditions, driven only by her quest for a parent she yearns for.
While she searches, she also has a fling with a drug addict, makes tentative friendships at work and finds herself, more often than not, exploited for what she is — a young immigrant trying to make a living in an alien, chaotic city. She finds herself bribing passport agents and postmasters along the way — and the bribe is not always in cash.
Gulshan Devaiah plays Chittiappa, a small- time crook, who uses Ruth because her boyfriend owes him money. Naseeruddin Shah plays Diwakar, an amiable old man who genuinely looks out for Ruth while Pooja Swarup plays Maya, Ruth’s acid-tongued but kind-hearted colleague at the spa.
Kashyap builds up his characters in minimal time, giving us time to get to know them intimately as the film progresses. This is a no-holds barred film, and if you squirm in your seat a couple of times, think of it as a triumph for the film-maker.
Kalki Koechlin is excellent as Ruth, bringing the right amount of anguish and angst to her character, but it was Gulshan Devaiah who stole the show for me. He brought to life his character of a hardened criminal who still has a small-town boy living inside him.
This is not your regular Bollywood fare – and thank God for that. It is a film that is disturbing on many levels, but if you can handle some discomfort, I would recommend that you give this one a go.