The wistful animation “Bombay Rose” (streaming on Netflix) paints modern day Mumbai as an impressionistic cityscape where blurry street merchants hawk blobs that might be marigolds or oranges or heaps of turmeric. It’s as if the director, Gitanjali Rao, sharpens her focus only on the faces of two star-crossed lovers — Salim (voiced by Amit Deondi), a refugee from Kashmir, and Kamala (Cyli Khare), an escaped child bride — who sell flowers on opposite sides of a thoroughfare.
As he’s Muslim and she’s Hindi (and still married), their romance mostly exists in their imagination. But it’s in their daydreams that Rao meticulously adds patterned trim to saris and a shine to the spoons, making them rich with details that don’t exist in Salim and Kamala’s hardscrabble lives in this harsh metropolis.
Salim pictures himself a swaggering Bollywood hero rescuing his sweetheart from the trafficker who wants to sell her to dubious buyers in Dubai. Kamala imagines them embracing in India’s royal past. And they’re not the only ones dissatisfied with reality. Elsewhere, an older film actress insists on living in her black-and-white heyday, while her suitor, an antiques dealer, laments that young buyers no longer see the value in heirlooms.
The nostalgic ruminations of “Bombay Rose” have the feel of one of the vintage music boxes that an actress tuts over while talking to her dead co-star. The movie is lovely, but airless and bolted with scraps that barely hold together.
Ironically, Rao’s more contemporary beats wind up being the swooniest: a rainy kiss blocked by a wet car window that allows the couple to slip back out of focus — a nod to Bollywood’s kissing taboo — and the idea that if Salim’s corny, mustachioed movie heroes can’t save the day, perhaps it’s time to believe in a more humble movie heroine.
Rated PG-13 for the suggestion of sex work. Running time: 1 hour 33 minutes. Watch on Netflix.