“A love saga set in Mumbai city engulfed by political violence” is how I would describe the 1995 Bollywood movie Bombay (dubbed into Hindi from Tamil) directed by Mani Ratnam. Comprising of a star cast that includes Arvind Swamy and the beautiful Manisha Koirala in lead roles, this movie also comprised of some wonderful music and a haunting background composed by AR Rahman. And so, to understand in depth why this movie is such a classic, here is presenting an analysis on it.
a. The “story”, “screenplay”, and “editing” of Bombay:
Based in the city of Mumbai with the riots of 1992-93 serving as the backdrop, this movie revolves around a love story between a Hindu man named Shekhar (Arvind Swamy) and a Muslim woman called Shaila Banu (Manisha Koirala). Now, Shekhar is working in Mumbai, and with neither his family nor Banu’s accepting their relationship due to differences in religion, they elope and marry each other in the city. The couple then experiences a few years of blissful married life in the “City that never sleeps”, and during which they are blessed with twin boys. However, it is the eruption of Hindu-Muslim riots in the city that cause mayhem in the lives of Shekhar, Banu, and the children. The rest of the movie deals with whether or not the couple and their kids manage to survive the madness and chaos created by “hatred” unleashed by “religion” in the city.
The well written screenplay by Ratnam (also known as Mani Sir) is crisp and ensures that the story flows fairly quickly. The scenes are well etched out, and have been written with a great deal of realism and with an eye for minute details about human nature. The solid story and screenplay of this movie is supported by some fine editing by Suresh Urs. For example, the edit used for the song “Kuchi Bhi Na Socho” which carries forward the story and screenplay by a few years very quickly is excellent, and hence not surprisingly Urs won a National Award for Best Editor in 1996.
b. The “brilliance” of the star cast of Bombay:
“Riveting and true to life” would be the best way to describe the performances of the entire star cast of this movie. As protagonists Shekhar and Shaila, both Arvind and Manisha give wonderfully real performances. Especially, Koirala with her beautiful eyes expresses emotions that not even thousand words would be able to. In addition, the seasoned Tamil actor Nasser (as always) also gives an extremely strong performance as the loving religious father of Shekhar. The performance of actor Kitty as Shaila’s concerned and temperamental father is also good and provides good support to the entire narrative.
c. The “cinematography”, “music”, and “direction” of Bombay:
“Delight to the eyes” would be the right way to describe the cinematography done by Rajeev Menon. Of note, is the brilliant photography in the song “Tu Hi Re” which has been cleverly shot under monsoon like climate, thereby adding a touch of romance to the song. Furthermore, the riot sequences have been shot so brilliantly that on viewing it really feels as though it was for real. Supporting the great cinematography is brilliant music composed by AR Rahman. Comprising of some great compositions such as “Tu Hi Re”, “Kehna Hi Kya”, and “Kuchi Kuchi Rakhamma” the soundtrack of this movie is pure delight to the ears. Above all, though it is the “haunting” background score which essentially sounds like a “cry of anguish” that really adds to the “tragedy” present in the narrative.
Last but not the least, is the brilliant direction provided by Mani Sir who like always ensures that he precisely merges sensible “content” with “commercial” elements. Another, important feature about this director’s work is that, he knows how to capture tender moments shared by his characters via the camera extremely realistically. Furthermore, he extracts some good performances form his star cast which in turn enhances the story and screenplay that he has written.
Having watched this movie on multiple occasions over the years I can confidently state that, if a sweet Bollywood love story set in Mumbai and comprising of beautiful music is what you desire then, this movie titled “Bombay” must be watched.