Bombay Rose Movie Review - The Nostalgic Flower

Bombay Rose is driven more by nostalgia than story. 

The frames of Gitanjali Rao's superbly animated Bombay Rose evoke a strong sense of nostalgia. To watch it is to travel through a dream. The ethereal dissolves and hallucinatory transitions transport you to a world that is at once both real and imaginary. Rao invites us to revel in her reminiscence of a time gone by. Bombay Rose is an ode to both the bustling city and the scented flower. Rao sews the two together. If Bombay (not Mumbai) is the city of dreams that has nightmares in its rural gullies, then rose has beauteous petals that contain thorns below it. Both the city and the flower paint a deceptive picture of themselves from the outside - one has towering skyscrapers standing with pride while another has exquisite petals sending delights. These are distractions masking their vexatious side.

In a way, Bombay Rose ends up inhabiting this analogy. The dreamlike, frame-by-frame painted animation tries compensating for a passable story. Rao puts on one of those "masala movie" lenses as a tribute to both the city and the larger-than-life films that used to not just galvanize but influence the crowd during the old days. This influence seeps into Bombay Rose, which is quite evident from the close-up of a face that silently soaks Pyaar Ka Fasana inside him while the others cheer at the film in a theater. This is Rao's way of setting up the narrative: expect a full-blown masala film. And so, you get the scene where love blossoms as soon as a man gives the rose to a woman. To spice things up, he is Muslim, and she is Hindu. His name is Salim (voiced by Amit Deondi), and the girl he is wooing is Kamala (voiced by Cyli Khare). They inhabit the opposite sides of a busy road where the vehicles and the people passing by act as a barrier between them, quite literally. These "vehicles" and "people" are a stand-in for the society that forbids the union of the two religions. Rao likes giving such visual translations. She turns an opportunistic villain into an eagle.      

An animated film frees itself from the boundaries of reality. They have the freedom to travel through space and time without any obstructions. Hell, you can make up your own version of reality devoid of established conventions. In Bombay Rose, the city occasionally "travels" back in time, giving us a view of history. You get to see, say, what building stood in place of the current structure or how it looked back then. But it's not only these bricks and walls that are transported back in time. Ms. Shirley D'Souza (Amardeep Jha), too, seems to be holding on to the past. Her long-gone-from-the-world husband is substituted with his clothes set on a chair. She talks to it/him. When she dresses in front of the mirror, her reflection is that of her younger-self colored in the shades of black and white (this color is painted on all the "past" scenes).

For a movie that dedicates the majority of its energy to Kamala and Salim, I came away attached more to D'Souza and Anthony (Shishir Sharma) than Kamala-Salim. Sure, Kamala and Salim are given more poetry (they melt into each other under the bliss of rain). But I was tremendously moved by a simpler scene where Anthony holds D'Souza's hand in his hand gently. I preferred the quietly-flirty-lovely relationship of the older couple compared to the fiery-hefty-dramatic of the younger ones. The friendship between Kamala's sister and a mute and deaf boy is sweet. Rao manages to bring out the childhood innocence that acts as a catalyst for the bond between them. 

Since Kamala stays near a beach, her father comes up with a question as to why people throng to the beach. "To ponder over their dreams?" replies Kamala. "Why come to the sea?" he asks. Well, the beach is a place where the land, the sky, and the sea form a connection. Perhaps, the possibility that something as elemental as this could be achieved at a location could be the reason behind coming to the beach as it lends more probability to the seemingly unachievable dreams of the people. There is another less profound reason for choosing to go to the beach - To chill, of course. 

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from Movie Reviews https://moviesinmydna.blogspot.com/2021/03/bombay-rose-movie-review-nostalgic.html
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