Red Gold (2014) – By Philip Smolen

Ravi (a wonderful Shivam Sharma) is a poor young man who lives in the Indian slums. He spends his days picking through the garbage, looking for a few scraps that he can sell in order to buy some food for himself and his sister and alcoholic father. Coming home after a particularly bad day, Ravi finds the henchmen of the local kingpin Iswhar (Bikramjeet Kanwarpai) threatening his family because they haven’t paid him the money they owe. Desperately wanting to keep his sister away from Iswhar’s brothel, Ravi goes to his local illegal blood bank to sell a pint of his blood. There he meets Godfather Iswhar himself who offers Ravi $3000 dollars for his kidney. Terrified, but needing the money, Ravi agrees and after a harrowing operation, the boy awakens to find that Iswhar has stiffed him for the money. Furious, Ravi vows revenge and gets the idea to beat Iswhar at his own game. He goes behind Iswhar’s back and sets up his own illegal blood bank. But Ravi pays more for his neighbor’s blood and is more benevolent. Before long, he finds that he’s becoming rich and is helping out the locals at the same time. But Iswhar smells out Ravi’s new enterprise and he’s not about to let a young upstart take away his profitable business.

“Red Gold” is a new indie film from writer/director Michael Keller and it is an amazing achievement. This compelling and thrilling movie (actually filmed in Vasai, India) hooked me from the opening scene of Ravi looking for small treasures at the local dump. Echoing Katherine Boos novel “Beyond the Beautiful Forevers”, and Danny Boyle’s flick “Slumdog Millionaire”, Keller examines the real life horror and total abject poverty of the people from a small Indian town. Forlorn and forgotten, they struggle to have any kind of life and are exploited for the only thing they still have of value; their tissues and their organs. What sets Ravi apart is his love for his family and his compassion for his fellow man. This allows him to rise above Iswhar who merely exploits everyone for profit. But as he grows more successful, Ravi begins to wonder if he is any better than Iswhar. And there’s a fabulous scene in the movie where Iswhar tells Ravi that they are both parasites, literally sucking the life blood out of the neighborhood.

Keller has put together an incredible cast. Shivam Sharma is great as Ravi. He projects an instant likability and you find yourself rooting for this young man, even though he is engaging in illegal activities. Ricah Meena is sweet and perky as Anjali, the girl that Ravi is in love with. She’s shy and quiet on the outside, but carries herself with a gentle strength. Bikramjeet Kanwarpai is smooth and oily as Iswhar. Mayur Bansai as Sabal and Anand Krishnan as officer Rakshe turn in strong supporting performances.

The only part of the film that I didn’t care for was the penultimate scene where Ravi suddenly turns into an action hero. While this gives the movies a satisfying and exciting climax, it’s a bit unrealistic. However, this is a small complaint and in no way ruins a great movie.

Featuring a wonderful evocative movie score by Chahat Kakkar, “Red Gold” is a knockout of an indie film. It’s powerful and fabulous and one that the entire indie community should be proud of.

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