Whenever a polish-walla shines your shoes, so transparently btight, you look into them and see your own face reflected. But the shining surface of the shoes also reflects the faces of those thousands of destitute children who polish the shoes and every one of those thousand faces has a story to tell. A story that will straight go to your heart.
“Boot Polish” tells such a human story of two children who earned their living by polishing shoes in the streets of Bombay.
BOMBAY! This one word at once reminds one of the magnificent Marine Drive, the glistening sands of Chowpati, the majestic Taj, the swaying palms of Juhu beach, the heavenly air of the hanging gardens, streams of sleek automobiles, a dazzling display of wealth and splendor. Under this colourful covering lies the throbbing heart, the hidden soul of Bombay in countless slums in the pavement dwellings and hutments, in the dingy shacks of dirty narrow lanes and gutters. Here millions struggle, suffer and perish. Beggars, destitutes and the unemployed fight a never ending relentless battle against poverty, disease and misery.
BHOLA, an innocent boy of ten and his younger sister BELU aged seven were two destitute children, belonging to one such slum area of Bombay. They were well trained in the art of begging by a woman of dubious morals KAMLA CHACHI, a distant relative who had provided the kids with sleeping space in her dilapidated shack. The constant abuses bickerings and beatings from Kamla Chachi had made the lives of these kids a veritable hell.
Their only ray of hope was the neighbor, JOHN and old eccentric bootlegger with a sharp tongue but a golden heart, John’s simple words “Starve die but don’t beg. Do something with your two hands-inspired the kids to stop begging and start the work of polishing boots.
Bhola had observed Chitku a bootblack from the slums earn money in a dignified way by shining shoes. The idea of shining shoes fascinated him so much he resolved to become a bootblack.
But the arrest of John took from their lives the little love and solace they had. They were left crying and helpless with nobody to go to with their troubles. They were turned out of the house for the day by a furious Kamla for not begging and polishing boots instead.
Hours passed and they couldn’t get any business. The ceaseless rains had spoilt their chances of getting a single customer. They ran from Station to Station, from street to street only to be disappointed. Belu started crying and wanted Bhola to beg for some money so that she could get something to eat. A great conflict rose in his mind. He had sworn not to beg but his beloved sister was fainting from hunger.
His troubles and trails mounted up to a new pitch of pathos till the question “BEG or DIE”, poses itself once again.
But when the night was so dark, could the dawn be far away? Bhola, Belu and John Chacha met again on the cross raods of life. The trials and tribulation were left behind; a new world of love and respect awaited them.
This was the end of one period and the beginning of another. On their happy faces was written the future of children of the coming generation.
(From the official press booklet)