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Elevator To Success

Friday, January 18, 2019
By Deepa Gahlot

A small, urban fairytale called The Lift Boy, directed by Jonathan Augustin, releases this week. The first-time director has cast fresh faces in the film, which adds to its modest charm.

Raju (Moin Khan) is the son of a liftman Krishna Tawade (Saagar Kale) and his wife, Laxmi (Neha Bam), who works as a domestic worker. They live in a one-room tenement, but have given the boy the best education possible. Raju speaks good English, dresses smartly, rides a scooter and flaunts a smart phone. But he has failed one engineering exam four times, and his father wants him to try and try till he gets through, because he their only ticket to a better life.

Then Krishna is felled by a heart attack and while he is in hospital, he requests Raju to fill in for him. Which is how the reluctant Raju finds himself at Galaxy Apartments, owned by Maureen D’Souza (Nyla Masood), where a few other tenants also live.  Maureen is a stern but kind woman, an artist, who lives alone after the death of her husband.

Raju is a frivolous young man, who often declares that he is an engineer not a button-pusher, but makes no move to pass his exam. He sleeps or reads novels in the lift and carries on a flirtation with Princess (Aneesha Shah), who is being pushed by her mother to become an actress.

He used to be a little embarrassed by his father’s job and told his best friend Shawn (Damain D’Souza) that dad is an undercover cop. But over the days he spends pushing buttons, he learns the dignity of labour, cleans the lift with care and takes the same kind of pride his father did in his uniform.

Maureen takes him under her wing, and treats him more like a friend than a boy who works at a menial job in her building. She chats with him over tea and meals and takes him out grocery-shopping or to church. Raju’s mother is suspicious of Maureen’s friendliness, but his father placidly watches his son’s growing attachment to his employer and the building where he works.

It is a too-simple coming-of-age tale, perhaps more suited to home viewing, but Augustin portrays the generous and caring side of Mumbai that is seldom seen in films; the relationship between employer and worker is usually not as warm as he portrays, but there it is all explained towards the end, even though it comes across as not quite convincing. Still, it is a feel good film that holds out a message of hope.

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