One of the great joys of attending any film festival, is coming across a piece of work by an up-and-coming director that you just know will make waves one day. Gitajali Rao’s feature length debut, Bombay Rose, is more than enough proof that she’ll continue to make grand impressions in the world of animation for years to come, despite the film’s shortcomings.

A grand interconnected story about the power of Bollywood cinema in the Indian populace, Bombay Rose uses a flower (well, a rose) to weave together the lives of three women: Kamala, Tara, and Shirley. Kamala is a young Hindu woman seeking to escape her arranged marriage by selling flowers and dancing at a nightclub; while Tara is her younger sister. Shirley, meanwhile, is a widowed retiree who befriends Tara. The women all face various struggles from the men in their lives, both living and deceased. Burning desires and forbidden passions unite them all as the city of Mumbai comes alive in the background, full of rich colors and exquisite animation. 

However, at 96 minutes, the film feels overstuffed due to a messy, overplotted script that tries to handle too much at once. The muddy plot and inconsistent pacing makes the second act a bit of a chore to sit through. Even then, the stunning animation style is enough to overcome that. Every shade of color pops, and the magical, nostalgic world of Mumbai is mesmerizing. It’s a unique art style that draws from the golden age 2D animation and Indian folk art; creating a magical world that is currently a rarity on the indie animation circuit. Rao spent six years working on this labor of love, and every eye-popping frame is testament to her artistic vision. Bombay Rose will surely be a calling card for her and the film’s team of talented artists and storytellers!

Bombay Rose screened at the 55th Chicago International Film Festival as part of the New Directors Competition and Women in Cinema programs. The film will screen again on October 20th at 12:30pm at AMC River East 21.

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