Bombay Rose – Every frame a painting- Cinema express
A few years ago a friend and I caught up Love Vincent On the big screen. As we gazed in awe at the stunning film made entirely of oil paintings, I hardly thought we would soon get something similar in India, where normal animation itself is a rarity.
Gitanjali Rao’s Bombay Rose (Streaming now on Netflix) also consists of single images. Although these were not drawn and painted with oil on canvas, but on the computer, the result is just as beautiful. And during Love Vincent draws on the work of Van Gogh, Bombay Rose shows Gitanjali Rao’s own bold style combined with unique Indian shapes such as Mughal miniatures, Kashmiri truck art and old-time Bollywood posters. Indeed, in one interview With Cinema Express, the filmmaker said she had chosen the backgrounds of her protagonists – Kamala and Salim – based on the art forms she wanted to explore. Kamala is from Madhya Pradesh, known for its miniature paintings, while Salim is from Kashmir. Both escape a difficult life and move to Mumbai, where they make a living from flowers, across the street. A Bollywood romance soon blossoms between the two, filled with stolen looks and roses silently left in flower baskets.
Bollywood is finding its way into it Bombay Rose in many ways. There are movie posters in several scenes, Salim introduces himself to Raja Khan (a compilation of several current stars voiced by Anurag Kashyap), and there is a dance bar appropriately named Pyaasa. The film even opens with a scene from a Bollywood film that is shown in a small theater. Salim and the movie’s villain, Mike (who, interestingly, wears a very prominent tilak) both watch a Raja Khan movie. The hero delivers his punch dialogue, beats up the villain and saves the heroine. Just as he is about to kiss her, the scene is censored by the theater, which makes the guests angry. There’s a nice recall on that with another, much more elegant, censored kiss later in the movie.
Another Bollywood connection is Shirley D’Souza, the English tutor of Kamala’s little sister Tara. Ms. D’Souza is a former actress and lives in the past. She talks to her late husband about the times they worked together on 1950s Hindi films. Courtesy of this character, Bombay Rose has some nice old Bollywood songs. Ms. D’Souza’s servings also contain retro Konkani music and through them we can see old Bombay. When she walks through the city, she turns into a monochrome Bombay with trams. The transitions – here and elsewhere in the film between the various art forms – are beautiful. And the city, both Mumbai and Bombay, is portrayed very lovingly. Ms. D’Souza’s title also shows one of the most inventive means of the film, a rose perspective – we see the city from the perspective of the flower, of course correspondingly pink.
The third title of the film, and the one least influenced by Bollywood, follows Tara and the deaf boy who works in a restaurant and whom she rescues from the police. While all three of these stories have interesting aspects and their intersections are somewhat organic, somehow they don’t quite fit together. While the daydreaming parts of Kamala and Salim – miniature and truck art styles, respectively – are beautiful to look at, they don’t really add much to the narrative. And while Kamala as a Hindu and Salim as a Muslim are commented on a few times in dialogues, not much comes out of it. It feels like Gitanjali Rao tried to put too much into the film and consequently was unable to do it justice. By the way, Love Vincent I also had narrative issues, which made me wonder if artists perhaps tend to get carried away with the art aspect and overlook the importance of storytelling.
However, the art more than makes up for the shortcomings in the narrative. Bombay Rose holds our attention by the beauty of its frame. While the film itself may not be perfect, every frame is truly perfect.