All about the ongoing Toronto International Film Festival 2019

‘Bombay Rose’ and ‘Sing Me A Song’ incite overwhelming nostalgia at TIFF

Gitanjali Rose’s ‘Bombay Rose’  

One of the most potent feelings cinema can create is that of nostalgia. Gitanjali Rao’s Bombay Rose is awash with an unspoken yearning for what Mumbai once was and the Bombay that it can still be; the genteel heart behind the visible aggression. It all gets amalgamated in the persona of Shirley D’Souza, a dancer in the Hindi cinema of yore, who remembers the captivating creases on Guru Dutt’s forehead and the 42 takes she did for a song. She stays in one of the many little bungalows, perhaps in Bandra’s Chuim village, holding on to a home that would constantly be under the threat of getting redeveloped into shiny, tall builder flats, like so many beautiful Bandra houses.

It’s home not just to her but to objects of the past, priceless memorabilia, many memories and, of course, cats. She is also the centre of the nation’s collective nostalgia — for old Hindi film songs — such as Dil tadap tadap ke kah raha hai, Hoon abhi main jawan, Aayiye meherbaan, Baar baar dekho and so on.

Ms Rao’s animation is beguiling and charming when it comes to capturing the city itself, its little fantasies and larger ugly realities that get entwined in a red rose. The lovely sequence of D’Souza walking down from her home to the church as the city backdrop behind her keeps changing is lovely, as much about the sights as the rhythms and sounds of Bombay. The Dadar flower market, the dance bars, Juhu beach, the traffic-infested roads, the wet rains or even the shabby shanties with the cans of water stacked in front and women washing clothes outside in full public view. It’s all so Bombay.

It’s clear where Ms Rao’s personal and political heart lies but she keeps things implicit. A tilak and rudraksh mala is enough to establish a tapori’s affiliation. A single line, “Noone is from any village, everyone is a Bombayite,” establishes how migrants shape the megapolis and are, in turn, shaped by it and Kashmir unwittingly acquires an urgency even though it may not have been envisaged as such by her. It’s the love story at the heart of the film, of the Kashmir boy Salim and the gajra seller Kamala, that disappoints in comparison to the film’s larger ambition. A little too lightweight, slight and predictable, it left me craving for more heft.

Like Bombay Rose, Thomas Balmes’ unique documentary Sing Me A Song also leaves one with an overwhelming nostalgia; for a world free of technological interventions. Ironically it does so by capturing the impact that the wired world has on a young Buddhist monk in Bhutan, the last nation to embrace television and Internet.

Thomas Balmes’ ‘Sing Me A Song’

Thomas Balmes’ ‘Sing Me A Song’  

We meet Peyangki as an eight-year-old in Laya where roads are still getting tarred and electricity is yet to arrive. We then meet him ten years later. Laya monastery is now obsessed with the dish antenna, Thimpu is about Internet and gaming parlours while Peyangki himself literally lives inside his mobile, lost in the virtual world. What follows is a sad tale of the illusions, lies and delusions that online world can lead to, of assuming that one has found love when there may be none to fanning Islamophobia. It’s incredibly sad to hear Pengyaki say of his obsession: “I am too far from Buddha now”. The documentary about innocence lost to the Internet makes one long for the idyll that Laya once was and will never again be.

(The writer is in Toronto at the invitation of TIFF)

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 11:13:16 PM |

Next Story