Director: Mani Ratnam
Language: Hindi Dubbed Version
Did I watch this recently? Yes
Shekhar (Arvind Swamy) is the son of traditional Hindu parents in a seaside village in Tamil Nandu. A journalism student studying in Bombay, Shekhar visits back home to see his family. On one of his return trip, he falls in love at first sight with Shaila Bano (Mainisha Koirala). Initially shy, but eventually, they both fall in love.
A marriage proposal is vehemently opposed by the lovers’ fathers. Shekar’s father refuses to accept Shaila as his daughter-in-law, telling Shekhar to find another partner, whilst Shaila’s father announces the need for an immediate marriage between his daughter and a Muslim man. Eventually the two elope to Bombay (Mumbai). Their story as a family, religious extreemism and the city they live in forms the story for Bombay.
After watching Bombay and knowing I have to write about my thoughts and feelings on the movie, i felt almost overwhelmed. Its hard to express to people who have not seen this movie before just what is so memorable and beautiful about this film.
The film starts in a small village with Shekhar (a journalism student) seeing Shaila (a muslim girl from his village) and falling in love at first sight. As expected the movie had the muslim father’s conflict with the hindu father with neither wanting a marriage between the two religions and children. Luckily i was not fed the same 2.5 hour parents objecting storyline. Shekhar and Shaila were much stronger and instead of giving into their parents decided to live happily together away from their parents in Mumbai (Bombay). It is then so lovable to see them together, first as newlyweds and then as parents of twin boys.
But of course the real protagonists of this movie are not Shekher and Shaila’s memories and story, but in fact Bombay. Shekhar and Shaila are the backdrop to the Bombay Hindu/Muslim conflicts (and of course the issue of inter-religious conflict as a whole). Hindu and Muslims live together in Bombay and find it very hard to live together with constant conflict as seen by the 1992 riots and many more.
But living within Bombay is Shaila and Shekhar who have been able to be of a different religion but live together. They respect each others differences and are able to love each other despite being of different religions. As Shekhar asks both the muslim and hindu leaders if they will ever be able to live in peace they reply that they did not start the fight. Shekhar and Shaila are examples of hope for one day the two religions being able to live together. They have twins, where one is raised muslim and one is raised hindu to resolve the religious upbringing issue. Even the constant fighting fathers (who both believe their religion is the best one) eventually resolve their conflict and provide rare comedy scenes for the second half.
Inter-religious conflict storyline is not new to Bollywood. But Mani Ratnam inflares such emotion and passion into the characters and the story, that its hard to make me feel any of the other movie attempts i’ve seen are on the same level. On December 6, 1992, Hindus destroyed a mosque in the northern Indian city of Ayodha. This led to a wave of Hindu/Muslim riots in Bombay that left thousands dead. I pretty much cried buckets in this movie and needed a towel to wipe my eyes. It’s so easy to fall in love with the characters and their plight to live in a world where the innocent people are mostly the ones who get hurt. Many scenes are simply heartbreaking.
My main issues with the film are first off that the two fall in love at first sight, i would have preferred them falling more deeply in love via their personality and interactions then just looks – but i guess it is one way to cut down the running time of the movie. Others complain that the violence and drama of the second half is melodramatic and manipulative, but i was too busy crying to care. For me the other minor annoyance was how perfect and idealistic their muslim and hindu convergent family life is. Never any fights, everything seems too idealistic and simple to be believable. But still its nice to watch, despite how unrealistic the portrayal of the family is.
I’ve never seen Arvind Swamy (who plays Shekhar) act in any movie before, but he was suprisingly good. Not a looker by any means but i’m kind of immune to the unconventional looks of South Indian actors. But his chemistry and interactions between Manisha are so believable and adorable its hard not to fall in love with these two. As for Manisha Koirala (who played Shaila) i’ve seen in mostly notably Khamoshi and Akele Hum Akele Tum, Bombay just assists to reaffirm my belief that she was one of the best dramatic actresses for the 90s. I wouldn’t label her commercial, but its hard to think of any actress who has her acting ability during that time. She could be strong, emotional, innocent, enchanting and
comedic – its hard to find actresses who can do that as well as her. The two fathers also get a notable mention for being my other favourite characters, it was always enjoyable to see their scenes even when they were mean.
Last notable mention goes to the music by A.R Rahman. Of course this was the hindi dubbed music i was listening to. All the songs are more easy listening and melodic, my favourite being the romantic ‘Tu Hi Re’. Others aren’t as special but are perfect for the tone of the movie where they are played.
Overall Score: 4.5/5 Hairy Anil Kapoors – Overall this is one of my favourite Mani Ratnam films i have watched and any inter-religious conflict/marriage storyline. Watch it for the adorable moments between Shekhar and Shaila and the emotionally wrenching storyline.