Bombay Rose – Hindu Woman Dreams of Harem

Every Communist and Islamist will approve of ‘Bombay Rose’, the animated film that came out in 2019.

It has all the generic themes pushed by every left-leaning filmmaker in the industry for decades, such as romanticising poverty, glorifying the Mughals, presenting tilakdhaari men as evil and showing Hindu women being better off with Muslim men (thereby promoting Love Jihad).

Salim and Kamala

Before we go into the details, here is the film’s plot: Hindu woman Kamala is a flower seller who works at night as a bar dancer to make ends meet for her family, which includes her grandfather (a watch and toy mechanic) and a little school-going sister named Tara. The three had come to Mumbai after rescuing Kamala from a much older husband on her wedding night, as it was an alliance imposed by her alcoholic-gambler father.

In Mumbai, Kamala often daydreams of living in Mughal times as a Hindu princess and being spotted by a Muslim prince.

She falls in love with Salim, also a flower seller, who was orphaned due to militancy in Kashmir. He falls in love with her too, but they’re harassed by an indecent and malicious pimp trying to make money by sending Kamala to Dubai to work as a maid. The pimp wears a long tilak, and is called Mike.

In the end, however, Kamala’s dream remains unrealised as Salim, chased by Mike, dies.

Kamala in her dreams

There is a sub-plot involving Tara’s English tutor Ms D’Souza, an aged actress from yesteryears, who is dealing with loneliness after the death of her partner.

Here are two extra sub-plotlines:

-It rails against law-enforcing police officers who crack down on illegal child labour practices. The film repeatedly messages how the poor kids suffer because cops send those who don’t go to school to remand homes, instead of letting them work in eateries as cheap labourers. Does that mean the poor should be left to suffer in generations of non-schooling?

-This film promotes a distasteful attitude towards darker skin shades among Indian women. In her dreams of living under Mughal rule, Kamala meets a stranger Mughal prince, who is visibly fairer than her for some reason. Why should Kamala dream of being loved by a fair-skinned man? Why would director Geetanjali Rao pander to this “Kaala Hindu baniya v/s fair Muslims of foreign blood” stereotype that India’s Hinduphobic neighbour Pakistan has been derogatorily pushing for years?

Kamala’s father, tilakdhaari Mike and the older man who married her are all dangerous Hindu men who bring misfortunes into her life. She has a grandfather who is too weak to take care of her. Even the owner of the south Indian eatery, who has vibhuti smeared across his forehead, uses young boys as cheap workers and bribes cops to keep looking the other way about it.

On the other hand, Salim is shown as the nice guy from Kashmir who falls for Kamala after learning about her woes. He fights for her and encourages her to escape Mike’s control. 

He also day-dreams like Kamala. He dreams of Kamala turning into ‘Buraq’ and taking him to the sky. In Islamic traditions, Buraq, a horse with wings, is believed to have transported Islam’s founder Prophet Moḥammed to heaven.

To make his living, Salim steals flowers from the cemetery and sells them to others, but he gives up such ways for her sake. The movie shows that even if Kamala falls for a thief, her love is so strong that he reforms in the end. 

What a detrimental message to young girls, especially in inter-faith relationships! It encourages them to ignore all red flags in the man in hopes that one day their true love with reform him. 

The other good man is the antique store dealer, Anthony, who is quite charmed by Ms D’Souza and wants to date her. He is so kind that he buys old things from her, even if they have no value. He also discovers the untapped talent of Kamala’s grandfather and helps him make a better living out of those skills.

Lastly, there is the deaf-and-mute little boy who is adopted by Tara’s family on her insistence and who takes care of Tara’s grandfather even if he was rude to him in the past. This boy is given the name Tipu. A secret tribute to Tipu Sultan? 

We wouldn’t be surprised if that were true, considering Kamala is shown to dream of roaming carefree as a Hindu woman in Mughal markets. This admiration for Mughal times, while ignoring their persecution of native culture and atrocities on Hindu women, would make all Hinduphobic Marxist historians, as well as our Pakistani neighbours, proud. 

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I watch how Bollywood engages with and represents Hindu society. A non-Marxist film critic writing in English.

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