Bombay Velvet is till date, Anurag Kashyap’s costliest and most accessible film for the “aam Junta” and that is what proves to be the death nail for a film which has been generating curiosity not only with its production but also because of the fact that some of the biggies of the industry are coming together in a Anurag Kashyap film who is known to spin magic with minimalistic casts. The film is a picture of beauty. The 60’s era is brought breathtakingly to life but the lack of heart in the story kills the film and going By Anurag Kashyap’s high standards, it will rate as his weakest film till date.
The story is about Johnny Balraj (Ranbir Kapoor) a small time criminal who receives a shot in the arm when he is picked up for the big league by Kaizad Khambata (Karan Johar), a man who himself is looking to make his way to the top. Under Khambata’s aegis, Johnny becomes the owner of Bombay Velvet, a posh club and also gets to live his dream with his love Rosie (Anushka Sharma). Rosie however has plans of her own and with Johnny rising rapidly through the ranks, she decides to just go with the flow. Things get out of control when Johnny starts demanding more than just being the puppet owner of a club and sets about a chain of events which threatens to bring down the empire that Khambata has so delicately constructed. What happens next forms the narrative of Bombay Velvet.
To start with the film’s narrative just doesn’t have the material to hold on to your attention. The story though moves briskly doesn’t thrill you or amuse
you for that matter. The director expects you to get wrapped in the beautifully structured designs of the 1960s Mumbai but unfortunately, the lack of depth in the part of the narrative pulls it down terribly. Another problem is with the fact that none of the characters make an impression so as to have the audience connect with them on a personal level which is a key factor for a film like this. Even when you have Johnny and Rosie lying dead in the final scene of the film, you don’t feel a thing. What does that say about the characters?
The film is beautifully shot and at first view I couldn’t pick out a single shot or aesthetics that is out of place. . That in itself is a big achievement considering the fact that this is a huge film in terms of budget, reach and settings. The music works wonderfully and the fact that the songs take the story forward thankfully doesn’t stall the narrative which would have otherwise been a big trouble. The fact that Thelma Schoonmaker, the editing genius, cut this film makes another aspect of the technicalities perfect. Yes the editing is sensational. The action is well done and to a great extent remains an interesting proposition in the film. The editing does help the cause here too. However the finale with the Tommy Gun cliché (definitely inspired from Scarface and alike) was a big downer.
Ranbir Kapoor essays a la Tony Montana (scaled down to suit Indian audiences) character with finesse. He sends out the right vibes and the right bit of craze to make his character believable. However the lack of writing shows in the development of his character which leaves him malnourished by the time the second half starts rolling. Anushka Sharma has little to do except show off those pouty lips in some of the most extreme close-ups that you will see in recent times. She is apt in her essay. Karan Johar making his film debut sticks out like a sore thumb. He does well in certain scenes but his over melodramatic expressions kill the cow more than once in the film. The final scene where he is killed was a “LOL” moment for me. Everytime he says something in that falsely heavy voice, I couldn’t help but smile.
Overall, Bombay Velvet can be watched once for the visual splendor that it brings to the screen. That is however saying that this is the first Anurag Kashyap film in a long time were glitz and floss is used to make up for lack of content. Anurag for once tries to walk in the direction of the mass crowd pleasers and fails simply because he is unable to sketch an unabashed affair fully. He hangs somewhere between his own forte and the one that he is trying to acquire. After the sparkling Ugly, which went almost unnoticed, this is a huge let down for his fans, me in particular.