(1970)2.5Tom WienerBombay Talkie sounds better in concept than it appears in execution. The potential for exploring culture clashes between East and West, the artificial but seductive world of filmmaking, and the complexities of a three-person romantic relationship are enormous, but the Merchant-Ivory-Jhabvala team make the fatal mistake of creating a trio of unlikable characters who aren't even interesting as satirical subjects. Perhaps this is the real problem with this film; it can't make its mind over how to portray the self-defeating illusions of the actor Vikram (Shashi Kapoor), the British writer Lucia (Jennifer Kendal), and the aspiring poet Hari (Zia Mohyeddin). Are they objects of scorn or pity? Ultimately, they come off as too shallow for any kind of authentic emotional response. Hari is the best bet for a point of entry, a writer who loathes his circumstances (scuffling for handouts from the film industry, yearning to write published poetry) no more than himself; he focuses his rage on his actor pal Vikram, who effortlessly beds Lucia, the "exotic" woman Hari needs to justify his romantic yearnings. Whereas Vikram and Lucia come off as two beautiful people in love (despite Vikram's marriage), Hari is the Nick Carraway figure, always looking for the light at the end of the pier. Ultimately, however, his character is too much of a stooge, and the film's unsurprising climax doesn't carry the tragic weight it's meant to.