Sooni Taraporevala’s film Little Zizou — which can be watched for free these days on Hulu — always makes me yearn for my first true love: Bombay. Because Little Zizou represents the perfect template of the city known to outsiders as Mumbai but beloved by insiders forever as Bombay, the craziest, most chaotically beautiful place on earth, the one single spot that invades my senses and dreams even as I write this, lands away and miles apart.
While it is ideal for cinema to transport its audience to other worlds, it’s not often that a film manages to do it quite as well as Little Zizou.
The story is wonderfully simple: Xerxes (played by Jahan Bativala), or "Little Zizou," is a young boy who prays to his late mother to send his soccer idol Zinedine Zidane on a visit to Bombay. His elder brother Art (Imaad Shah, who is also featured in Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist) is a prolific cartoonist, a romantic with a fantastic imagination and a group of friends determined to achieve the nearly-impossible, while the boys’ father Khodaiji (played by Sohrab Ardeshir) is a religious leader of sorts, with prophetic aspirations and a flair for the dramatic. Because of Khodaiji’s fanatical convictions, the boys spend most of their time at the home of their father’s archrival, Boman Presswala (a treat for lovers of Indian cinema as he’s played by Boman Irani, a beloved star), a principled newspaper man with a loving, kind wife Roxanne (played by Zenobia Shroff) and two girls. While Art pines for the elder one, the younger Liana (Iyanah Bativala) resents the presence of Xerxes, who is tended to with care and attention by her mom. It is a modern fairy tale, with a story as old as love itself.
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And of course……watch the movie on Hulu….