Bombay Rose: A Tale Of Impossible Loves
“This is a story of migration. A Bombay story, about falling in love, living on the streets of Bombay” says animation filmmaker Gitanjali Rao, “These are not hero stories – but stories of simple people, poor people, how they survive, how they fall in love, how they’re influenced by Bollywood. I have always wanted to tell the stories of the unsung heroes who live and love in Bombay, never become success stories, yet their struggle for survival makes heroes out of them”.
Bombay Rose has already travelled the international festival circuit to critical acclaim, screening at the Venice Film Festival Critic’s Week, as well as at TIFF (Toronto), and in Hamburg, Busan, London, India – winning two awards at the 21st MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.
But the journey to this moment has not been a road without its share of hurdles – it is a story of resilience, determination and grace in equal measure, with 93 minutes of animated beauty to show for it. Having written, directed and edited the film, this is a labour of love in every sense of the term. “I worked 7 days a week with a very small team – but that doesn’t show in the film, it looks like a huge production” smiles Gitanjali.
The finished product is seamless, a visually stunning animated tale of impossible loves – love between a Hindu girl and a Muslim boy, love between two women, love of an entire city for its Bollywood stars – hand painted, frame by frame. But what often goes unseen is the months dedicated to fundraising for the project, the energy required to preserve one’s ideas in the face of adversity, and the unwavering dedication to a vision and a medium that in India is still very much in its nascency, lacking the sort of supportive industry infrastructures that exist for animation film outside the country.
Filmmaker Gitanjali Rao
“Even internationally no one knows what Indian animation is. We know Polish animation, we know Japanese animation, but in India we don’t have enough films that can establish the genre as an identity”, explains Gitanjali, “We have only been doing outsource work, the manual labour of animations for even Oscar winning films. But we have talent, we have skills – what we have not invested in is original stories, in Indian stories, and that’s what I’m trying to do. You need 15-20 films like this to hit the theaters to establish an identity for itself. It takes 5-6 years to make one film. If the process goes faster and the finances go faster, then maybe we could make something of Indian animation. It takes time, and filmmakers willing to take risks”.
Collaborating with EarthSync for the film’s musical score was a very conscious decision on Gitanjali’s part, with the film featuring original tracks composed and produced by EarthSync’s Yoav Rosenthal, and ‘Tapatam‘ from Laya Project. “I collaborate with very few people, I very selectively hand pick them and it’s people whose intentions I like and resonate with, people who are putting in the passion and labour – that is the reason EarthSync’s music is different” says Gitanjali, “EarthSync is very rooted in music. I wouldn’t have done it with anyone else”.
Gitanjali’s relationship with EarthSync goes back a long way – “I saw Laya Project, and fell in love with the concept of doing music with people who had been affected by the tsunami,” she remembers fondly, “It stayed with me for a very long time. I had been playing the CD on repeat and when I found out it was done by EarthSync I got a contact number and spoke to Sonya. They said come to IndEarth XChange we’ll screen the movie and here’s the music for free, it was so casual! And this gesture I never forgot. It’s such a warm relationship with Sonya, she saw me struggling with the film to raise the finances, and did what she could for me then. And eventually you see a professional relationship flourish – a few years later, I could say ok now we have this project and now we have this budget”.
The film’s use of music is distinctly original, consciously choosing not to create a conventional background score that exists separate to the story – but instead using sounds from within the story, music that is organically intertwined with the characters, their day to day realities, the urban sounds of Bombay.
“In Bombay when you move around the city there’s always some music or the other that is playing – in a rickshaw, in the lobby of a hotel, when you get into a bus. In life. So that was my music too – existing music, incidental music. I wanted to use music like that – as a part of the character, like an extension of the character. It was quite difficult to convince my producers that it would sound good with just this much,” she laughs, “But finally, they were convinced and now here we are”.