By Peter Travers
November 07, 1988 12:00 PM

Ten-year-old Krishna (Shafiq Syed) is a runaway. He has come to live among the street children of Bombay to earn money to replace a bicycle he destroyed—an act of violence that had cost him his mother’s favor. Documentarian Mira Nair, in her first fiction film, fills the screen with the human refuse of India’s largest city. But she might be working in any of the world’s urban centers where the homeless search futilely for shelter and a better life. Krishna tries to build a surrogate family among the prostitutes, pimps and drug pushers who pass for authority figures, but like the deluded youth around him, he learns a hard lesson. Working with actual runaways, many of whom are in the film, the director altered the script according to what they taught her. What sets Nair’s film apart is the resilience she finds in these doomed children. Poetic, powerful and disturbing, Salaam Bombay transcends language and cultural barriers. (In Hindi, with subtitles; not rated)