Celebrating cinema with the Kings

A slice of life. That phrase has stuck with me since my days as a drama student at high school. It gave credence to my long-held belief that if any production were to be considered worthwhile – be it theatrical or cinematic – it had to be a slice of life. I want to laugh and cry with the characters, I want to share in their sadness and I want to dance with them too, like no one is watching!

Cue Kings of Mulberry Street. This locally-produced movie ticks all those boxes and warmed my heart in so many ways. It took me back to era in which I was born and raised – the 1980s. It reminded me of my beautiful childhood. But please don’t confuse beautiful with blissful. Because it was not an idyllic life.

I have written about this before and it bears repeating in the context of my immense appreciation of this movie. Whether it was Verulam, where the movie is set, or Newlands West where I grew up or my now hometown Phoenix, the reality is that these areas were created by the apartheid government to prevent us – people of Indian heritage – from mixing with other racial groups. And so in our own little cocoons, our families did the best they could – they worked hard to earn a living and ensure we received a good education. What made it beautiful were the friendships that developed – where all barriers fell away – of class and religion – and at the end of the day, all that mattered was being able to share green mangoes with salt, chilli powder and vinegar with your neighbours. It’s poignant moments like these, captured on celluloid, that make Kings of Mulberry endearing to watch. And the flashes of Bollywood movies – with Rajinikanth, the hit movie Ram Lakhan and that epic tale of friendship – Sholay – are sheer brilliance.

Does the friendship of Baboo and Ticky mirror that of Jai and Veeru in Sholay? It far exceeds that!

I loved Ticky played by Aaqil Hoosen and my husband loved Baboo played by Shan Nathoo. They are complete opposites in many ways but as parents of boys, we were bound to love them anyway!

When that phrase “boys will be boys” was coined – I’d like to think that it refers to the personalities and traits displayed by Baboo and Ticky… boys who will love their families fiercely, who will play innocently in the dusty streets, boys who will stand up for what’s right, even if it’s against a gangster, boys who dream big and above all, boys who will always have each other’s backs. They are nothing short of heroes – and as Ticky reminds us, every hero needs a partner!

This piece is by no means a review of the movie – there have been many glowing reviews already. Rather this piece is about the emotions this particular story stirred within me and why. The answer to that is simple – because finally South African  filmmakers are getting the opportunity to tell their stories! And… in telling their stories, they are telling our stories too! It’s about shared life experiences – from the humdrum of the local market with sweetmeats on sale to the crooked cop and that aunty who loves to hug children, occasionally with a wet kiss too!

Not only did the movie strike all the emotional notes with me, but it grabbed my son’s attention too. He was fascinated when he saw the trailer alongside other Hollywood trailers in the cinema and eagerly awaited the release. He learnt some of the dialogue too. His favourite is, “If you want to survive here, you better clean up your act and be a proper chaarou!” While enjoying the movie, my son also got to experience and enjoy some of my childhood – which he otherwise would never have. Kings of Mulberry Street is as real as it gets.

Judy Naidoo – take a bow for your creativity, delicate and detailed storytelling and for bringing together this amazing cast and crew. This is homegrown talent at its best!

Staying true its tagline, this is indeed a little film with a BIG HEART. It has certainly captured a part of mine…

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