Two young brothers scrounge around a trainyard for coal to raise money for their struggling single mother in Half Ticket, an engaging and emotional journey through the slums of Mumbai from filmmaker Samit Kakkad.
If that sounds familiar to you, it might be because that was the same synopsis of the first (and best) third of last year’s Oscar-nominated Lion.
For a while, Half Ticket delivers exceptionally on that scale: while considerably lighter in tone, the story of these two brothers is nevertheless harrowing given the circumstances that surround them.
But where Lion told the heartrending account of what happens to one of the brothers when he gets lost and cannot find his way back home, Half Ticket tells a much different story: the two brothers’ incredible journey to get a pizza from a newly-opened franchise in their district.
Yes, a simple pizza is all Little Crow’s Egg (Vinayak Potdar) and Big Crow’s Egg (Shubham More) are yearning for. They earned their nicknames after scrounging for crow’s eggs in a nearby park before the pizza place sets up shop in its place.
And their journey to get that pizza is, surprisingly, enough story to make this a fully-engaging ride. Not only do they have to raise enough dough for the pricey 300-rupee pie, but they also need to pass off as non-slumdogs to get in the establishment’s door.
In fact, Half Ticket is an exceptional movie whenever the kids are on screen, and bolstered by strong supporting roles by Usha Naik as the grandmother who tries to cook them her own version of a pizza, and Priyanka Bose as the hard-luck mother that has to put up with their dream (Bose, by the way, filled the same role as the boy’s young mother in Lion!)
Only problem: third-act plot shenanigans that minimize the family’s screentime for a good thirty minutes. The filmmakers dedicate way too much time to describing exactly how a pivotal video makes its way from the slums to the pizza place to the media, but all really need to see is how it impacts the lead characters.
Even with the climactic flaw, however, Half Ticket is a terrific story and a real crowdpleaser, though there’s a dose of soapy sentimentality toward the finale.
But if you’re familiar with Indian cinema, the story might seem similar to another movie besides Lion: in fact, the Marathi-language Half Ticket is a scene-for-scene, almost shot-for-shot remake of the Tamil-language Kaakkaa Muttai, which opened to festival acclaim in 2015. The filmmakers even recreate the soundtrack, and cast central characters that look almost identical to the ones in the earlier film.
That makes Half Ticket a little difficult to judge on its own terms; it’s a little slicker and more polished than the earlier film, and perhaps a little less authentic. But this is still a story worth catching in either language.