Bombay Velvet helmed by Anurag Kashyap is a sagacious tale revolving around love, aspirations, greed, lust for power and above all gluttonous connivance between corporate and Government that saw Bombay transform into metropolitan which has been stitched together with grandeur and impeccable detailing. Undoubtedly, Anurag Kashyap is one of those new age directors who knows his craft well and has proven his expertise in the past by directing flicks like Black Friday, Dev-D, Gulaal & Gangs Of Wasseypur which can be hailed as coming of age cinema. Bombay Velvet is his definitely his most ambitious project so far with big stars, lavish sets that transport you to the bygone era of 1960's cocooned with intricate finesse. Neither Bombay's streets nor her morally bankrupt citizens are a pretty sight in Bombay Velvet, the latest crime thriller helmed by Anurag Kashyap. Coldly scrutinizing the shadowy motives at play during the transformation of Bombay into a metropolitan, the grittily stylized film boasts a scatter shot narrative that frustrates as much as it illuminates. As a director, Anurag Kashyap has always made movies which have carved out a niche of their own in terms of cinematic experience. If we take a look at earlier movies of Kashyap be it Black Friday or Gangs of Wasseypur, they were packed with political and social innuendos & Bombay Velvet takes a quantum leap in the same direction. Anurag Kashyap along with his able technical crew has meticulously recreated the past era during which Bombay was spread out and carved out of seven separate islands. While the city is about to grow, myriad manipulations come into play with vested interests. Lot of people want to savor their respective slice of pie in the growing city. Some of them being ; A shrewd businessman by the name of Kaizad Khambata (Karan Johar) who goes upto the extent of using his wife to entice Government officials and later blackmail or eliminate them, City mayor (Siddhartha Basu) who uses his clout to make things work out in favor of Kaizad & his coterie, Johnny Balraj (Ranbir Kapoor) who is a henchman of Kaizad but now wants to venture out on his own. Amongst all this, there is a love story story brewing up between Johnny & Rosie (Anushka Sharma), an aspiring Jazz Singer. While the first half of the movie is tight enough to keep you glued to your seats, things begin to go haywire in the second half with its flimsy storytelling. Johnny who has been working under the wings of Kaizad gets more ambitious and eyes a bigger chunk in the pie. In the process, the second half gets reduced to a vendetta driven drama robbing the movie of its plausible moments. In a nutshell, Bombay Velvet is a story of ostentatious ambitions, detrimental greed and consummate love which has been served up with grandeur.
STORY & SCREENPLAY (SPOILERS AHEAD) :: The story of the film has been borrowed from a book titled, Mumbai Fables that has been penned down by Gyan Prakash. The writing credits for the screenplay of the movie have been shared by Vasan Bala, Gyan Prakash, Anurag Kashyap along with S.Thanikachalam. The script of Bombay Velvet is a collateral mix of deadly desecration of land mafia, political rivalries, tabloid wars, cold blooded murders, unrest of labor unions and selfless love between the protagonists under these extreme conditions. The story that has been adapted from the book, Mumbai Fables might have looked sound on paper but while portraying it on-screen especially with a time constraint of 131 minutes (including songs), story gets convoluted. There are too many characters in the movie who are left open with loose ends leaving us clueless in the end. While the first half of the movie is taut with audience being introduced to the lives of young Balraj, Rosie and how chemistry develops between them, it's the second half which is a let down and full of cliches. The movie begins in 1969 when young Balraj (Ranbir Kapoor) alights from a train along with his foster mother in Bombay. His mother seeks work at several places but on finding none, finally ends up at a brothel. Young Balraj catches up with Chimman (Satyadeep Misra) who is a pick pocket-er and engulfs a deep affinity with him making them friends for life. Balraj generally watches his mother being slapped, abused in the brothel which infuriates and frustrates him a lot. To vent out his frustration, he starts to fight in free for all boxing ring. On the other hand, young Rosie (Anushka Sharma) sings in a choir at Goa. A local rich guy (Remo Fernandez) takes her to his place to develop her singing skills but his constant physical abuse forces Rosie to run away from Goa and she too lands up in Bombay with an aspiration to become a Jazz singer. After watching an English movie, Balraj gets so smitten by its characters that he too dreams of becoming a big shot. He tries to rob a businessman in a bank but is unsuccessful. The businessman is none other than Kaizad Khambata (Karan Johar) who gets impressed with the skills and confidence of Balraj and hires him as his henchman along with Chimman. He even rechristens Balraj's name to Johnny. Meanwhile, Rosie begins to sing in a local club where Balraj watches her and falls in love with her at the first sight. The club is also frequented by Jimmy Mistry (Manish Chaudhury) who is a communist and editor of pro-labor class tabloid by the name of 'Glitz'. Jimmy is all opposition to the capitalists plan and hence is at loggerheads with Kaizad who is a land shark. Jimmy takes Rosie to his place. Kaizad opens up a big club house by the name of Bombay Velvet and appoints Johnny as the manager of the club. Kaizad uses Johnny as a weapon to wipe out his adversaries be it by eliminating, threatening, kidnapping or blackmailing them. With Johnny's aid (in the background), Kaizad is able to set his equation right with the mayor (Siddhartha Basu) of the town and plans to build big towers in Bombay. Jimmy gets a whiff of the shady dealings being done by Kaizad and is sure that it is Johnny who is helping Kaizad in these murkier deals by blackmailing & threatening Government officials. It is then, that Rosie is sent as a honey-trap to Bombay Velvet by Jimmy to collect the evidence and hand it over to him. But, Rosie falls in love with Johnny and refuses to help him. Things worsen further when Johnny becomes more ambitious and wants a bigger slice of pie in the deals being done by Kaizad and Kaizad comes to know that Rosie has been sent by Mistry to nail them down. Now, Kaizad not only wants Rosie dead but also tries to create a rift between Johnny and Chimman. Will Johnny be able to save Rosie, Will Johnny realize his dream of becoming a big shot, Will Mistry be able to expose the murkier deals & What will be the fate of Kaizad is what forms the rest of the story.
STARCAST :: Mukesh Chhabra (Casting Director) has further cemented his credentials as an ace casting director with this movie after his efficient casting in past movies like P.K., Ugly & Tewar. He has ably cast a fine blend of stars and motley of some real fine actors who have delivered outstanding performances as per their respective characterizations. He has created a casting coup by signing Karan Johar as the main antagonist for this movie which sounded absurd on paper but has come out very well in the movie. Ranbir Kapoor, once again proves why he is considered the blue eyed boy of the present day film fraternity with his outstanding portrayal of Johnny Balraj in the movie. Putting his much forgettable cameo in 'Roy' on the back burner, Ranbir is back with a bang. We see him in various avatars in the movie ; as a tough street criminal, a love-struck guy who falls in for Rosie (Anushka Sharma) at first sighting of hers, a violent lover who constantly squabbles with Rosie, an aspiring person who becomes a ruthless killer and to his credit Ranbir has come out equally impressive in all these. His acting in this flick is as natural, convincing as it can be which speaks volumes about his acting finesse. Matching him step by step is Anushka Sharma whose portrayal of character 'Rosie' is so cogent that it appears effortless. She seems to be on a roll after her high decibel performance in NH10 and is slowly but steadily carving out a niche for herself amongst her coterie. With her acting skills, Anushka enlivens the character of Rosie, the exploited Jazz singer. The chemistry between Ranbir & Anushka is electrifying ( especially during their fight scenes ) and has to be seen to be believed. Karan Johar makes his debut through Bombay Velvet by portraying the character of Kaizad Kambhata. And what a debut.......he looks every inch the stylish, suave and cynical mogul that he is supposed to portray on-screen. When I read that he has been signed in to play the role of antagonist in this movie, I was quite skeptical whether he will be able to carry off this role but to his credit, Karan Johar has proven me wrong and delivered a startling performance. Watch out for him in the scene where he steps out so that he can sneer at Johnny's inability to understand English language. Another actor who manages to impress with his apt performance is Satyadeep Misra. As a bosom pal of Johnny, though he remains in the background as most of the action revolves around Johnny but you can't miss him due to his intense performance which he has delivered by emoting through his eyes and body language. Manish Chaudhury, once again proves how good an actor he is by portraying the role of Jimmy Mistry with utmost conviction despite the drawback that his character is not that well etched out especially in the second half. Other noticeable performances have been delivered by Kay Kay Menon, Vivaan Shah, Siddhartha Basu, Raveena Tandon & Remo Fernandez.
TECHNICAL FINESSE :: The musical soundtrack of the movie that has been composed by Amit Trivedi along with Mikey McCleary is heady, swingy and reminiscent of the 60's musical compositions. The songs replete with Jazz music are a treat for music connoisseurs. Two tracks namely Fifi sung by Suman Sridhar & Mohabbat Buri Bimari sung by Neeti Mohan stand out amongst others. The background music of the movie has been composed by Amit Trivedi who has done excellent job out of it. Amit's background music underscores every scene without hammering in the emotions. Other members of the crew who have delivered the goods are, Errol Kelly, Sonal Sawant (Production designers), Sameer Sawant (Art Director) and Kazvin Dangor, Rose Maria Tharakan (Set Decorators) who have ably kept the aesthetics as per the era shown in the film. Another person who deserves a special mention is Niharika Khan (Costume Designer) who has designed the costumes keeping dressing pattern of 1960's in mind. Together, all these with brilliant contribution in their respective fields have been able to recreate the Bombay of 1960's. The cinematographer of the movie is Rajeev Ravi who has done an outstanding job of capturing visuals. Bombay's architecture, captured from the grand well built sets, lends a wonderful edge to Rajeev's visual commentary. Dark, lingering, soulful and enigmatic - Bombay is multiple people in city's body. This varied, pulsating and intriguing temperament is what is documented in well captured frames without distracting itself from the story or its telling. The movie has been edited by Prerna Saigal along with Thelma Schoonmaker who have packaged the whole action in run-time of 151 minutes. Due credit must be given to their sharp, taut editing as their razor sharp editing is able to cover up the glitches and incoherent elements of the storyline. As a director, Anurag Kashyap completely succeeds in recreating Bombay of 1960's with clubs playing jazz music, vintage cars, styling, tommy guns and making you believe in it completely. Suffice to say, he has extracted the best out of his cast & crew but the screenplay laden with too many characters lets him down especially in the second half. This is his first attempt to drift away from offbeat cinema which he is proficient at but on the whole it looks like a half-hearted attempt as Bombay Velvet is not in the league of flicks that he has helmed earlier.
CONCLUSION :: Bombay Velvet is not that typical Anurag Kashyap kind of cinema which he is known for but still can be watched once for its grandeur, meticulous detailing that transports you back into Bombay of 1960's and power packed performances by its starcast. I am giving it 2 and a half stars out of five.
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