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By Lokesh Dharmani Thursday, 14 May 2015
STARRING: Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Karan Johar
RATING: 2.5 stars
Ranbir Kapoor has a moustache in Bombay Velvet. So does Anushka Sharma. In one of the opening scenes, she actually has upper lip hair. And then there is Karan Johar's upper lip act that breaks into a hearty, uncontrollable laugh at such a forced joke that I couldn't quite decide what was more contrived: the joke or KJo's acting.
Anurag Kashyap, who has cried small budget all his life, seems to have raided even his producers' children's piggy banks. You can see huge sums have been well spent to create the '60s era. The sets are gorgeous, the costumes are elaborate and the pitch perfect art direction pays a beautiful ode to old Bombay, exactly how Special 26 did to old Delhi and Detective Byomkesh Bakshy to Kolkata. But something felt amiss.
You see, I tried liking this film. I really did. So when the movie opened with a young boy landing in Bombay with his bechari maa, I could see him slip into the underworld, the mother being sold to prostitute and all those things that happen in Hindi films that made people in the theatre go, "So dark, man. So hard-hitting." I wanted to hand each one of them a DVD of Being Cyrus or even a Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron because dark doesn't mean KJo's half smirks.
But it's an Anurag Kashyap film, with Ranbir Kapoor and Anushka Sharma, so I was like, let me not be too quick to judge. But then I lost all my patience when I saw Remo Fernandez. You will NOT believe, he plays a singer, from GOA! KIIILLL MEEE GENTTTLLYYY!!!! I bet Emraan Hashmi hasn't kissed in as many films as Remo has played a singer' from Goa' in Hindi films.
There was also a double role, a photograph's negative and my favourite- purani mill ke bechare workers, who --- hold your breath for this one --- are all ready to go for some strike/protest/rally!! I still tried my best to like the film and not complain, but the makers dropped a property scam that was so difficult to decipher that Chemistry's periodic table in Class XII seemed like a cakewalk.
Balraj (Ranbir-papa-trending-on-Twitter-Kapoor) is a street thug who is ambitious and wants to be a big shot'. His ambitions are used by Khambatta (Karan-darrrllingg-bana-dark-Johar) who runs a newspaper and is at loggerheads with Jimmy Mistry (Manish Chaudhary), an editor of a rival newspaper. The real estate scam is a tussle between the capitalists and socialists is clear but what the deal is, what the stakes are, remain unexplored.
The film, though, is written well. There is an interesting scene where Anushka Sharma is lying to the cops and, in return, the cops sing Jaane kya tune kahi, jaane kya maine suni.' That brought a smile on my face. Also, the music by Amit Trivedi and Amitabh Battacharya is interestingly jazzy, becomes a part of the narrative but slows the film down to a turtle's.
Ranbir Kapoor is as confident and Anushka as natural. Karan Johar tries hard, gets a few notes right, but is mostly unimpressive and unconvincing. The characters didn't engage me. I neither felt their pain, struggles or moments of joy.
I couldn't quite understand the purpose of the film. While Piku explored parents-children relationship and Dum Laga Ke Haisha the love story of a fat lady married to a tenth fail man, Bombay Velvet didn't do much to me. What was the idea of Bombay Velvet, I couldn't quite understand. It remained a story of a young ambitious man, his love story with the jazz singer and his ups and downs in the underworld.
Bombay Velvet is beautifully shot, beautifully acted, beautifully edited but remained beautifully boring!! Watch it if you are a Ranbir-Anushka fan.
WHAT THE RATINGS MEAN
Joined: 30 April 2006
Joined: 02 October 2012
At a time when filmmakers are exploring untouched themes, adopting stories that downplay romance, and exploiting unique storytelling styles, director Anurag Kashyap steps back in time to unveil a vintage Bollywood romance that's clichd but styled magnificently.
He serves up his extravagant love story tinted in blood, and peppered with bullets. Set at a time when Bombay was exploding with potential and power, and a desire to turn into a Manhattan.
It's effectively formulaic, with a poor street-kid turning into an outlaw, only because it's his only chance at being a "big shot". He's handed a loyal best-friend, a cunning rich mentor and a gorgeous girl to journey with him, as he climbs up the ranks.
While Kashyap extracts some killer performances from his passionate lovers, it's the magnificent canvas that steals the show.
Shot gloriously by Rajeev Ravi, this is possibly Kashyap's most visually spectacular movie ever. From movie posters, to classic cars, to trams, to telephones, every frame exposes Bombay of the 1940s and 60s.
Unfortunately, Bombay Velvet' crumbles under its own glory. While the retro chic impresses greatly, it distracts us and never allows us to connect with its cigarette-puffing, gun-loving dishonorable men. At over two-and-a-half-hours of screen time, there are moments of ups and downs, that kills the fun. Even celebrated American editor Thelma Schoonmaker is unable to salvage the situation.
In fact, Bombay Velvet' never quite attains the supremacy that Kashyap's epic gang war Gangs of Wassaypur' attained. Agreed it's inappropriate to compare the two genres, but both are as much about the politics of power, as they are about love.
The curtains rise as the inglorious Nathuram Godse headlined the newspapers, and when restrictions on spirits were the norm. Swayed by the dreamy Hollywood noirs and disgusted by a life crammed in poverty and vulgarity, an unfortunate Johny Balraj sets out to alter his destiny.
He chances upon the suave Khambhatta, who promises to change his life in exchange for a few quick executions. Soon, Johny is offered a flashy dance club, and his girl Rosie is hired as the pin-up girl/jazz singer. Life's on an upswing, until Johny demands for an equal share.
All hell breaks loose, and Johny rages to claim what he believes is his right.
Ranbir Kapoor flourishes as the manically ambitious Johny. You sense his menacing madness as his "hobby" entails him to willing surrender to the hard blows in the boxing ring, or when he unflinchingly punctures bodies so they don't stay afloat after being dumped in the waters.
It's the moments when his lips are sealed, and his eyes do the talking, that are the most defining, and the mark of a great artist.
Anushka Sharma backs him up impressively. Even her pout isn't off-putting, and she plays Rosie with aplomb. It's their superlative performance that Bombay Velvet' rides on.
Unfortunately the same can't be said about director Karan Johar, who makes his acting debut as the conniving Khambatta. Despite being handed a powerful character, Karan is unable to inject him with fear or lunacy. He tries, quite honestly, but it never tallies up and turns him into the weakest link in Bombay Velvet'. When Khambatta subtly voices his preference for male companions or when he renames Balraj as Johny', it reduces Karan (and not Khambatta) to a clich.
It's unforgiving why Kashyap, who's known for his impeccable eye for spotting acting talent, would compromise for mediocre talent, especially when he had signed the talented Kay Kay Menon. Had he swapped their parts, Bombay Velvet' would have soared. Alas, that was not meant to be.
Of the supporting cast, Kay Kay is pitch-perfect as the helpless but earnest cop. Satyadeep Mishra is equally expressive as the Johny's faithful Chinman. Manish Choudhary steps in at second, as the scheming Jimmy Mistry. Vivaan Shah isn't allowed to flex his acting chops, and flits in and out at random.
Despite the build-up and grandeur, Kashyap's Bombay Velvet' falls short of being his masterpiece.
Joined: 23 December 2011
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