August 29, 2019
Gitanjali Rao’s handcrafted animation is both social-realist drama and sentimental fairytale, with odd flights of fancy
Bombay Rose review – overstuffed but luminous valentine to the city
The mean streets of Mumbai have rarely looked so vibrant, so lavish, so positively otherworldly as they do in Bombay Rose, a meticulous, handcrafted animation which plays in the critics’ selection here at Venice. Gitanjali Rao’s film paints a luminous valentine to the city in all of its squalor and beauty and audaciously frames social-realist drama as a sentimental folk tale. The disparate ingredients do not always gel. But in fits and starts Bombay Rose casts quite a spell.
I’m even tempted to regard the overstuffed plot as something of a necessity, given that the film is essentially about the crisscross of lives in a densely packed community, showing how this surging human traffic is really all connected and how the actions of one party have a domino effect on others. This introduces us to Kamala (voiced by Cyli Khare), who works as a dancer at an illegal nightclub while planning to sell herself into marriage in Dubai, before informing us that wait, she’s only doing this to provide for her younger sister Tara and her disabled grandfather, who works as a watchmaker but isn’t getting much trade. From here it ranges further afield, via child labourers on the run from the cops, to meet Salim (Amit Deondi), a Kashmiri youth orphaned by the MILITARY, who earns a crust selling the flowers he steals from graves. Salim, it turns out, is the one Kamala privately wants to marry.
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