Updated: March 11, 2021 4:42:22 pm
Bombay Rose director: Gitanjali Rao
Bombay Rose cast: Cyli Khare, Amit Deondi, Anurag Kashyap, Makrand Deshpande
Bombay Rose rating: 5
Gitanjali Rao’s Bombay Rose has been around since its premiere at International Critics Week at the 2019 Venice Film Festival, but it is only recently that the animated film is available beyond festival circles.
An extraordinary visual feast, Bombay Rose was painstakingly put together using individually painted frames. This technique –a hybrid of traditional animation and computer-aided animation — lends a unique, detailed visual language to the film. The undeniably rich and distinct art style hearkens back to classical art forms. There is an irresistible hand-drawn quality here, which it sort of is.
The story evokes the ethos of old Bollywood, when it was called Bombay Cinema. And although not as impressive as its visuals, it serves the purpose. Kamala lives with her grandfather and her little sister Tara. She makes flower garlands for a living, but unbeknownst to her family, she also moonlights as a bar dancer.
As a child she was forced into marriage, and her grandfather brought her and her sister to Mumbai. Salim, a young Kashmiri man who has fled the violent atmosphere of his home, is struggling to find a job. He falls in love with Kamala and she with him. He is a Muslim and she, a Hindu.
But not everything is rosy in the film, pardon the pun. Like any self-respecting Hindi movie, here too there is a menacing villain called Mike. He knows about Kamala’s real profession and promises her a life in Dubai. He also warns Salim off Kamala.
There are other characters too. A woman who used to be a film star, and till date remains obsessed with her glory days. There is a watchmaker who can fix any antique toy you throw at him. A hearing-impaired orphan, with nowhere to go, is brought home by Tara. There are also several cats for feline lovers. The lives of these characters interact in beautiful and organic ways. The characters in Bombay Rose are written with depth which complement its visuals, and lend an air of authenticity to its world.
This authenticity also comes from Gitanjali’s deft direction. Case in point: background score in Bombay Rose is simply what is being played on the streets at that very moment during the scene. For instance, music from a wedding procession (barat) accompanies the moment Kamala and Salim profess, without words, their love for each other.
Hindi oldies crop up at appropriate times.
A sense of dreaminess pervades Bombay Rose, going beyond the visuals and sound. There is a clear homage to the city and how migrants flock to it from every corner of the country to build a new life. But Bombay Rose is also not averse to call attention towards what is not so good about the Maximum City. It perfectly captures those contradictions.
It is nigh impossible to overstate how gorgeous this film is. Its glowing reviews had prepared this scribe for something special, but it turned out to be even better. Not since Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old has anything been this impressive visually.
Bombay Rose is streaming on Netflix.
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