When McCarthy spent a few months in India in mid-2009 shooting the movie, it was her first time in the country. But she’s returned about three times since and stays in touch with Ashish and his classmates. She plans to return to Mumbai in January to screen the film for Indian government and private personnel involved in education funding. “We can get some policymakers engaged with Ashish and kids like him and the issues that are facing them and ask them some pretty tough questions,” she says. In the U.S. and Britain, she’s using the documentary to raise money for the children’s higher education, by holding benefit screenings and encouraging TV viewers to donate. (Information is on both the film’s website and HBO’s.)
Unlike Slumdog Millionaire, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture shortly before McCarthy started shooting her film, The Sound of Mumbai does not have a pat happy ending. Ashish experiences some thrills previously unknown to him and is able to reconcile with his best friend who was jealous of his solo, but the concert does not miraculously turn around his and his family’s fortunes. The Sound of Mumbai kids have continued to learn and perform music, McCarthy reports, though it’s generally Indian rather than Western music. And their local public school is one of the few for poor children that teaches in English, which does provide them with an advantage.
HBO2 will show The Sound of Mumbai: A Musical on Nov. 23 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 27, at 8:15 p.m. EST. At least four additional airings are scheduled on HBO2 in December. Watch scenes from the 65-minute film here: