Gitanjali Rao’s Bombay Rose is an exquisitely delicate tale about dreams, love, and what it means to remain faithful to yourself in spite of life’s difficulties.
The streets of Bombay are redolent with the scent of faded roses and open-air spice markets. People meld with rusty carts and squeaking cars. It’s boiling, and dusty. At the heart of this storm of sand and odour, a girl crouches on the ground. She is a-blooming, just like the city, but she doesn’t want to be seen. She spends her days braiding flower tresses to sell for a small price to passerby. Her name’s Kamala. She lives with her grandpa and her younger sister, and she’s the bread-winner in the house. But one day, just like in a Bollywood musical, things suddenly change.
The arrival of a down-and-out street flower seller from Kashmir stirs this serving of Masala spice to the level of perfection, triggering a chain reaction that will unveil secrets and force everyone to confront their lives with a heightened sense of self. Built around an impeccable, Proppian system of characters, Bombay Rose drifts between life-like quality and the dream world of soap operas and blurs the boundaries between what’s fantasy and what’s reality. Rotating touching songs with the screeching sound of wheels scarring the streets, this animated film takes us on a trip to yet undiscovered lands of passion and delicacy – and gives us space to ponder over the lesson to be learnt at the same time.
In fact, Bombay Rose bursts with colours and sensuality. Director Gitanjali Rao’s hand-painted frames taste of cherry, and orange blossom flowers. However, its Gaugainian palette and Cézannesque tint never grant escapism an easy way out: in the end, all events have to be brought back to the realm of reason. Fairy tales are just a means to understand regular life-making. Once they’re told, they will fade away.
It feels like Bombay Rose carries an Allenesque message, and, to a certain extent, that’s probably true. Characters walk in and out of cinemas, and movie stars interfere with the existence of other human beings. Thus, cinematic art becomes a way to elevate one’s spirits and to gather additional strength to confront the rather crude and nightmarish streets of sun-parched Bombay. The shifting shapes of the film’s drawings evolve, bump into each other, blend with the surroundings. There could have been no other way to tell this story. Bombay Rose had to be an animated movie, and an especially piquant one.
This doesn’t mean that the film turns out to be a children’s toy. On the contrary: Bombay Rose is the perfect mix of seriousness and playfulness; a motion picture that will make both adults and younger viewers fall in love with its superb feat of storytelling – which, as a matter of fact, might compete with the most acclaimed scripts from Disney. So make sure you take a pack of tissues with you as you enter the theatre. This “jewel in the crown” is ready to win over your hearts, and you certainly don’t want to arrive to the meeting unprepared. Get ready to have your emotional spectrum stimulated in its every nook and shade, and check that your cinema-going eyes are well-trained. There might be some pungent surprise waiting for you. And we all know that curries never fool around with spices.
Bombay Rose premiered at the Glasgow Film Festival on 6th March 2020. Click here for more information about its future release.