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Movie Review: Bombay

Updated on June 28, 2017

Overview and Plot Summary

Bombay is an Indian film starring Manisha Koirala and Arvind Swamy in the lead and the well known music composer Rahman. The 1995 movie was directed by Mani Ratnam, and is centered upon events which transpired in the 1992 and 1993 riots in India. The film covers the Babri Masjib controversy in Ayodhya and how it was demolished, and the ever present religious tension in Mombay city at that time which led to the 11992-1993 riots.

Arvind (Shekher) is a son to Narayana Pilai, an orthodox Indian (Nassar) who lives in a village at the coastal region in Tamil Nadu. Shekher visits his home from his journalism school in Bombay and notices a Muslim girl named Manisha Koirala (Shaila Banu). He falls for this girl the moment he sees her and he decides to follow his heart and pursue her. Following days of pursuit, Shaila begins to feel for Shekher and within a short time they fall for each other. The two “lovebirds” hail from two different backgrounds which deviate from one another in many perspectives. Furthermore, their respective tribes are against intermarriages so it becomes extremely hard for Shekher and Shaila when they decide to formalize the relationship. Apparently, they are met with objection from both parents and decide to elope to Mumbai and marry against the wishes of their families. Shekher seeks and successfully finds a job as a reporter in a daily newspaper. The two are blessed with twin boys and they are very happy about this.

The remainder of the movie focuses on the 1992 and 1993 Babri Masjid controversy that caused widespread religious tension both in Mumbay and in other parts of India, which subsequently led to violence and rioting. During this time, the two separate and are also separated from their twins. Another unfortunate incident befalls them when their fathers are killed in a fire that was started by rioters in the house where they were staying. A casual moral of thinking where one has to think of themselves as Muslims or Indians is established throughout the rest of the movie. Finally, the family reunites after so much hustle for the children and so many searches in shelters, hospitals and morgues. Interestingly, the family withstands the riots and violence, but the incident leaves an indelible impression in everyone’s life.

Most Important Scene

For me, the most important scene in this movie is when the family decides to ignore their differences in search of the lost children. They are now united by a common cause, the search for children. Despite the twins themselves having separated, they are eventually found in this scene and this gives reason for the two lovers to be together again. The finding of children and eventually settling down provides hope and many lessons to the audience. For instance, despite the hassles one may face, there is a time for a success. Another reason is that acrimony on the basis of religion or culture is something that should be discarded as it leads to unnecessary tension. This should therefore be considered as the climax of the movie.

Composition and Design of the Key Scenes

Generally, all the actors have done an exceptional job, including the two children. The background song was quite lively. The costumes and apparel were of the right type and matched each occasion in every scene. This is also with the photography which resonates well with the rest of the movie. The camera angles were shot just at the right angle and direction. The narration was typically excellent and depicted someone with a talent. The narrator was keen to select colors that were familiar by the audience in the movies setting that is both India and Muslim. However, the lighting were in some scenes too dim while in others they were too bright. Someone with eye problem could certainly not been comfortable in a number of scenes.


The Social, Historical, Economic, Political and Artistic Message Conveyed in the Film

Ratnam presents several different messages and aspects of life in this film using the different scenes, film codes, music and characters in this movie. To begin with, Ratnam uses the Muslim-Hindu relationship between Shaila and Shekher to portray assimilation of the two religious aspects. After Shaila and Shekher fall in love, the “bride to be” goes to her home and informs his father about his intentions to marry her daughter. The father reacts by threatening him violently using a sword and tells him that even the blood running through their veins is different. Shekher takes the sword and cuts his arm with it, then does the same to Shaila then joins their wounds to signify bonding of their bloods. Shaila later meets with Shekher at the Fort and claims her love for him and consequently elopes to Bombay with him. This shows that the Muslim woman who is used to being submissive and under authority of the man has transformed into one that denies the authority and decides to use her freedom of choice. Thus, Shaila Bano’s body is owned and dominated by Shekher, which means she has been assimilated to the Hindu society. Similarly, when the two love birds arrive in Bombay, Shaila has her burqa on, but when they go to the marriage registry, which is immediately she is picked at the railway station, she has a sari on. She is dressed in a sari in all the later scenes except one, and this shows simply that she has completely been assimilated to the Hindu society.

Ratnam also depicts the overly violent and religious Muslim community in a number of scenes throughout the film to show that the community is a stumbling block to the process of constructing a secular nation. There are several scenes that show Muslim women on their way to school in burqas, which suggest that Muslims are backward, exclusive and old school. This means the daily lives of Muslim is a problem and an obstacle to cohesion in the community. Shaila’s father violently threatens Shekher when he went to present a marriage proposal to her daughter. Throughout the movie, Muslims are seen praying, and this implies that they are overly religious and an obstacle to attaining secularity.

Politicaly, the authorities seem to play a part in killing citizens instead of protecting them. The film brings out the police as cruel and unkind. For instance, the first phase of riots shows the police shooting aimlessly and killing Muslims. An innocent woman who is trying to run from the violence is brutally shot and killed by the police. Shekher confronts a police officer regarding their conduct and claims that more than 70 percent of people killed by the police were in fact innocent. This shows that the political class has failed in their duty to protect citizens.


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