By Karthik Nair
In the recent past, animated works across the globe have given the phrase “cartoons are for kids” a run for its money. Movies and shows like Bombay Rose (initial release 2019) have proven that animation is not only a tool to captivate children but a means to tell a story passionately.
From the start of the Bombay Rose which released on Netflix in March 2021, it is very clear that the story the creators are trying to tell isn’t possible in any other way apart from animation. The use of mythical transitions to go with the current happenings in the movie is smooth due to the animated style. One could imagine it being quite silly or cheesy in a live action movie.
The film does bring India as a contender to western animation, not only in terms of style but also in terms of the quality of the story being told. Moreover, the aspect of “Bombay” in the story never leaves you. This is portrayed not only through the BEST buses or kaali peelis (taxis), or the dukaans (shops)on the pavements, but also by its characters.
The film is primarily about the romance between Kamala and Salim. Both of them are flower sellers who meet on the streets of Mumbai. However, complications arise and Kamala and Salim question each other’s character and love.
The characters are the epitome of a poor person’s life in Mumbai. They are often ignored by the people and their stories, even if interesting, are always in the background. Bombay Rose changes this depiction by putting the life of the poor characters in the foreground and characters like Raja Khan, a famous actor, in the background. The story of a middle class Luso-Indian is also given importance. The stories of these characters are portrayed in a way that is rarely seen in Indian cinema.
The characters are also multicultural. From the North Indian baarats (a wedding procession) or South Indian chenda (a percussion instrument) procession – the characters are as multicultural as the background.
There isn’t much about Bombay Rose that can be said without telling you the story, but the aesthetics and storytelling is unrivalled when it comes to Indian animation. Every frame seems like a painting, moreover, a recognisable painting. While unique, there is still a sense that you have seen it before, and that what makes Bombay in the film very relatable.
However, there is room for improvement. The animation is a bit stiff. While this is a nod to the Indian style of animation, it can make the movements a bit dull and uninteresting. Especially during the climax of the movie, the adrenaline rush is often hindered by the stiffness of the animation. In an era where even stop motion is becoming smoother in terms of transitions, we have to question whether this is something about Indian animation that we have to move past or embrace.
The dream sequences while beautiful, sometimes takes you away from the story that you are actually invested in. It is the current series of events that the audience wants to know about and the flashbacks or mythical romance between the two primary characters seems to not really push the story ahead.
Overall, the film is a must-watch and is refreshing when compared to formulaic films that we see in Bollywood. The characters and the city of Bombay are interwoven like a seamless fabric which leave you inspired much after the movie has ended.
All photo credits: Bombay Rose, Cinestaan Film Company (2019). Fair Dealing