‘Half Ticket’: Film Review | Palm Springs 2017

Courtesy of The Palm Springs International Film Festival
Sweet, bordering on saccharine.

Samit Kakkad’s family dramedy received its North American premiere at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

Life lessons are learned, separated family members are reunited and a mother’s love is validated in the predictable but satisfying Indian comedic drama Half Ticket. A Mumbai-set, Marathi-language remake of the 2015 Tamil film The Crow’s Egg, Samit Kakkad’s third feature was distributed domestically by Fox Star Studios last July and could see some very modest art house business if Fox decided to follow up with a U.S. release.

Dnyanesh Zoting’s script largely follows the outlines of M. Manikandan’s Tamil original, introducing two young Mumbai slum boys, brothers nicknamed “Big Crow Egg” (Shubham More) and “Little Crow Egg” (Vinayak Potdar), who demonstrate a remarkable talent for robbing birds’ nests to obtain their preferred snack. As long as their father is serving time in jail, however, their mom (Priyanka Bose) won’t be able to afford any chicken eggs on her meager sweatshop salary. The boys help out as best they can, gathering chunks of coal that fall off passing freight trains down in the rail yard, which they sell to a neighboring shop owner. They quickly forget about eggs, however, when the new “Pizza Cafe” restaurant opens across the street from the slum.

Unfamiliar with this exotic delicacy, once they encounter the aromas of baked crust, roasted veggies and melted cheese, the boys instantly develop a craving for pizza. Since the 300 rupee price is exorbitantly unaffordable, they devise a plan to increase their coal collection and withhold their earnings from their mother so that they can share a small personal pizza together. Once they’ve saved the requisite amount, they attempt to enter the restaurant, but the branch manager stops them at the door, berating them and beating the older brother. Shocked and shamed, they return home without any hope of trying the coveted delicacy, unaware that another slum kid recorded the incident on his smartphone. Once the media get access to the video and begin broadcasting it repeatedly, a firestorm of indignation sweeps the slum and residents prepare for a mass demonstration at the restaurant.

Although unrelated, More and Potdar form a fine team as the brothers, who have forged an inseparable bond during their brief but challenging lives in the slums. The young actors excel at replicating mischievous behavior, marginally sacrificing credibility in more dramatic scenes, but overall carrying the movie remarkably well for their age. Bose overcompensates a bit as their stern but loving mother, particularly in the tense later scenes when the boys’ safety is briefly in question. As the antagonists, the pizza shop manager and his franchise-owner boss are painted in broad strokes as minor villains sure to get their comeuppance.

Shooting much of the production in the Mumbai slums, Kakkad takes great advantage of the location’s visual variety, with imaginative setups and energetic traveling shots. The area’s obvious destitution provides the backdrop for several supporting subplots emphasizing the toll of poverty on the residents, as well as their determined resilience. Scattered theme songs by Crow’s Egg composer G. V. Prakash Kumar provide the requisite upbeat musical accompaniment.

Distributor: Fox Star Studios
Production company: Video Palace
Cast: Priyanka Bose, Bhalchandra Kadam, Shubham More, Usha Naik, Vinayak Potdar
Director: Samit Kakkad
Screenwriter: Dnyanesh Zoting
Producers: Nanu Jaisinghani, Suresh Jaisinghani, Mohit Jaisinghani
Executive producer: Milind Shingte
Director of photography: Sanjay Memane
Costume designer:  Sachin Lovalekar
Editor: Faisal Mahadik
Music: G. V. Prakash Kumar
Casting director: Rohan Mapuskar
Venue: Palm Springs International Film Festival (World Cinema Now)

100 minutes

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