Bombay (1995)

Still banned theatrically in close-minded Singapore, this rousing, emotional work from Mani Ratnam about the conflicts stirred between the Hindus and Muslims is essential viewing for anyone who wants to understand why we must never bear religious and racial hatred.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review #2,299

Dir. Mani Ratnam
1995 | India | Drama/Romance | 135 mins | 2.35:1 | Tamil
R21 (Netflix rating) for mature themes

Cast: Arvind Swamy, Manisha Koirala, Nassar
Plot: A Hindu man and a Muslim woman fall in love in a small village and move to Mumbai, where they have two children. However, growing religious tensions and erupting riots threaten to tear the family apart.
Awards: Won Best Film on National Integration & Best Editing (National Film Awards)
Source: AP International

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Religious Intolerance
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: Netflix
Spoilers: No

I was first introduced to A.R. Rahman back in 2008 with his Oscar-winning soundtrack for Slumdog Millionaire.  At that time, as I was lightly surveying Rahman’s work, I was struck by his main theme for Bombay on YouTube, which I consider one of the greatest pieces of music ever composed for film. 

Since then, I’ve been wanting to watch the film, which unfortunately is still banned theatrically in close-minded Singapore. So, thanks to Netflix, where Bombay is streaming, I can finally give it a go.  It is also my first Mani Ratnam film, after hearing great things about his works. 

Well, I have to say that Bombay is essential viewing for anyone who wants to understand why we must never bear religious and racial hatred. 

Designed as a rousing, emotional movie with as wide a commercial appeal as possible, yet imbued with a strong, in-your-face message of tolerance and harmony between religious groups, Ratnam’s work is both serious and entertaining at the same time. 

“Religion does not favour violence. So, why does man favour it?”

Some might find it overly melodramatic, but the hammer hits the nail right on the head, as the taboo story of a Hindu man eloping with a Muslim woman gives it the right ingredients to ignite an explosive tale set against the backdrop of a community of Hindus and Muslims who are incited to bloody violence by the nefarious politics around them, based loosely on the Bombay Riots of the early ‘90s. 

The song-and-dance segments in this one are generally compelling, despite some rather lengthy ones, particularly an early piece between the aforesaid couple who long to be with each other.  The lead duo Arvind Swamy and Manisha Koirala are superb and very likeable as their characters. 

Bombay remains an important work of ‘90s Indian cinema and one of the best ways you can get yourself introduced to.

Grade: A-




    1. Yes indeed, I’m thankful for Slumdog Millionaire for introducing me to A.R. Rahman. I’ve been listening to nearly his entire music output for years already actually. Do you have some favourites?



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