“Salim Baba” tells the story of a 55-year-old Indian man who, following in his father’s footsteps, makes a living piecing together film scraps and playing them on a hand-cranked projector in a portable booth for the neighborhood children. And that’s…well, that’s the whole story. It’s kind of neat, but ultimately forgettable.
Salim talks about taking over the business from his father. He explains to the camera how the projector works in an excruciatingly lengthy segment that would be interesting to a fraction of filmgoers. The most interesting part is when Salim talks about collecting the film scraps from movie houses and, essentially, creating his own stories from them. There are many shots of him pushing his cart and many shots of children’s smiling faces. Don’t get me wrong, I like smiling children. But we get it. His films make poor kids happy which is why it’s tragic that he doesn’t know how much longer he can afford to run the business. We understood that at minute 5.
I’m not heartless. Really. And I’m not blaming Salim. He is truly an interesting character but his story, or at least this aspect of his story, could have been told in half the time. Salim says that he edits his film scraps in order to make a condensed, less boring version of the story. The filmmakers should have heeded the advice of their protagonist.