Thanks Maa is about a 12-year-old street kid who finds an abandoned newborn and takes it upon himself to reunite him with his mother. An abandoned child himself, Muncipality, played by Shams Patel who won a National Award for his performance, doesn't want another child to suffer the same fate. So he braves drug addicts, policemen, pimps and prostitutes to find the mother. His journey also becomes a portrait of Mumbai, revealing the horrific callousness and corruption that exists across classes.
Like Slumdog Millionaire, Thanks Maa also combines grim social realities with a fairytale sentimentality and melodrama. Debutant director Irfan Kamal sets up the film well with scenes of life on Mumbai's train stations and how a group of five children with names like Soda and Cutting survive on their wits and sheer street smarts.
These kids are the best part of the film. Kamal shoots in dozens of locations around Mumbai including some snazzy work during the Ganpati Festival. The textures and dialogue here are nicely authentic. But sadly, the film doesn't sustain this momentum. The plot grows increasingly implausible and over-blown leading to a climax that wants to tug at your heart-strings but only succeeds in being unintentionally comical. Thanks Maa aspires to be a Dickensian take on the horrors that confront children on a daily basis but some of the depictions of depravity feel voyeuristic, almost like you are back in Madhur Bhandarkar's Page 3 World. Eventually then, Thanks Maa is heart felt and ambitious but its too long and too contrived to work.
See it if you must.