By Rianne Hill Soriano

Long and winding romance

Posted on January 24, 2014

Movie Review Mumbai Love: The Movie Directed by Benito Bautista

MUMBAI LOVE presents a light and colorful world where two lovers from different cultures immerse themselves in each other’s worlds. As an escapist treat, it actually carries its light and shallow sensibilities pretty well.

However, its excruciatingly long running time makes it lose much of its initially established charm and vitality. During its premiere, sitting through its more-than-two-hour running time actually felt like watching a more-than-three-hour flick that seriously needs some tightening.

Instead of lingering on and relying too much on the character renditions of its fine ensemble, the extensive scenes could have used the time for more valuable storytelling details -- or perhaps, push its exceptional theatrics to another level.

This cross-cultural romantic comedy by Benito Bautista chronicles the journey of the hopeless romantic Indian-Filipino Nandi (Kiko Matos) who finally finds true love after an unexpected encounter with the bubbly and free-spirited French-Filipina Ella (Solenn Heussaff) during a visit to Mumbai. Despite the pressure from his very traditional Indian parents to accept an arranged marriage, Nandi pursues what his heart desires. He may have lost contact with Ella, but he is determined to search the nooks and cranny of Manila to find her. When fate leads them to each other, their relationship is put to the test by the social and cultural odds stacking up to separate them again.

The film has a promising start. A number of its small moments make for generous laughs -- but it’s worth noting that the comic parts work more wonders when not depending on movie clichés. The liberal insights of its characters are often pleasing on the surface, however, when attempting to dig deeper into the differences between, and stigmas held against, Indian and Filipino cultures, the narrative finds it difficult to take the dramatic plot points more seriously.

The cinematography and the remarkable production design allow the audience to escape to a vibrant world full of bright and warm tones. There is that campy and cheerful feel to the scenes from start to end.

As a feel-good offering, this picture clearly attempts to juxtapose Bollywood norms with the comedic, romantic and dramatic staples of Philippine cinema. Although the story builds on the idea of merging two different cultures through love, it chooses to visually highlight the colorful songs and dances of India, while simply showcasing bits and pieces of the everyday Filipino lifestyle in a small town, without the same kind of flair the Philippine culture and festivities can offer. More often than not, this mix works decently for the script’s requirements.

The tale builds on the idea of defying traditions, yet many scenes play around with stereotypes and social barriers.

With its fate-and-chance perspective when falling in love, the movie’s series of comedic and romantic scenes always wrap things up quite neatly. Towards the climax, these components provide a combination of fun, awkward and confusing moments. Ironically, every time the story hinges on an easy coincidence or a conflict resolved in a breeze, it becomes much harder to endure its overlong running time.

Kiko Matos and Solenn Heusaff as the leads manage to hold the narrative together with their distinct personalities and on-screen chemistry. So to with a handful of supporting cast members, particularly Jason Gainza as the motherly gay guardian Mama Nika, Ronnie Lazaro as the unlikely headstrong lover Mang Mando, Jun Sabayton as the fake-mustache-donning bystander and his father Beng David, Raymund Bagatsing as the regally poised and deadpan comic kingpin Rashid, and Romy Daryani as the happy-go-lucky cousin Romney.

MTRCB Rating: G