“Apan ko jo bhi mangta hai, sab log bolte hai apan ke aukat ke bahar hai. Apan ko apan ka aukat badalne ka hai.”
This was what Anurag Kashyap might have been going through inside his head, before making this multi-starrer blockbuster. And oh well, was it able to gain that aukat?
Set in a period of post-Independence, from 1949 to 1969, the film opens with a wonderful background score by Amit Trivedi and visuals of Old Bombay in a newsreel format against the song Aam Hindustani being sung by Dahlia (Raveena Tandon). Honestly, just that start there gives you a hope. An assurance that this might turn out to be the best film you have seen so far. But, oh wait!
Soon, the film has you running through the life of Johnny Balraj (Ranbir Kapoor), who wishes to become a ‘big-shot’ some day, have his squeeze by his side and drive through the streets of Bombay. Another man with dreams to plunder the lands of mill-workers, to build up huge developments, Kaizad Khambata (Karan Johar), also a media-honcho, gets a taste of Balraj’s angst to become big, and makes him his aide.
Rosie Noronha (Anushka Sharma), a talented singer, finds her way into Bombay, chasing her dreams, when she is spotted by Jimmy Mistry, a print-media biggie and rival of Kaizad. Soon, she is put into action by him, to get the negatives of an illicit affair of an important minister with Khambata’s wife, which indirectly acts as a weak mac-Guffin, and pushes to drive the story forward.
Finally, Balraj is a big-shot and in company of his love Rosie Noronha, who brings wonderful jazz to the ‘Bombay Velvet’ club, and that acts as a cover-up for the nefarious liquor trade bereft of the prohibit announced by the state.
Meanwhile, conspiracies are planned. Politics are being thrown in. And the shameful story of Bombay’s rise to metropolitan is being presented to you.
Things go haywire, and by the time the ‘stretched’ interval arrives, Johnny becomes blood-hungry for Rosie. Then, comes a bizarre plot-twist, and before you realise, the film has already lost its direction. Meaningless murders, deception and new characters into the plot later, Bombay Velvet doesn’t do justice to the first assurance it had given you.
The final climax scene is grand and sexy, with Balraj entering with the Tommy guns against those militaristic drum beats, which remind you of Buddy Rich. The end was quite an expected one for me, but it was visually pleasing.
Kay Kay Menon as an honest cop, was quite brilliant in the film, struggling his way through suspects and always late on his trail.Ranbir as Johnny Balraj, was absolutely as one would have wished. Eccentric, crazy and yet the die-hard romantic, a role perfectly put up on the screen by him.Karan Johar as Khambata, was splendid as the mysterious villain. A particular scene in the film, when he walks out of the room, to laugh at Johnny’s understanding of ‘tender’ was fucking brilliant.Anushka as Rosie, sucked. Yes. She did. After watching the movie once, you’d soon realize who would have suited the role better.Manish Chaudhary as Jimmy Mistry, is powerful and mean. A pro-Communist, he hates Khambata to the core, and wishes to save Bombay from the real-estate hawks through journalism.But, the real hidden gem of this movie was Satyadeep Mishra as Chiman Chopra. Being the trustworthy friend, keeping aside all his desires, he finds himself always in aid of Balraj, till the end. His subtle, poised acting does a wonderful thing to the film, which hardly anyone would notice.
Wonderful production design by Sonal Sawant and cinematography by Rajeev Ravi, gives the film a sepia-tinted makeover.Script by Gyan Prakash, Vasan Bala, Thani and Kashyap loses its way through the film.Thanks to the joint effort by Thelma Schoonmaker and Prerna Saigal, the film is quite consolidated and paced up. You can see Thelma’s trademark style of cuts through photograph flashes in the film a couple of times.
Lastly, the score by Amit Trivedi is kickass. That’s one more factor that keeps you glued to the seats, despite the flaws in the story. You just want to ignore the flaws just for the music. ‘Dhadaam dhadaam’ in one of the pivotal scenes in the film, energizes the whole atmosphere with its operatic tone.
There have been many debates in film history, of comparing a film’s story to that of the auteur’s life, who made it. I may be wrong, but I see quite an allusion to Anurag Kashyap’s life in Bollywood here. His entry into Bollywood, his fight through the system, to ultimately become the ‘big-shot’ i.e. transition from indie to commercial, all can be referred to.
In fact, the very friend who makes him walk on the grass of the other side, is himself in the movie, doing something similar to the protagonist. Helping him, to become big. Anyways, that’s just a thought.
P.S. If you get your hands upon, do watch Nachom-ia Kumpasar by Bardroy Baretto, that actually ferries you through the story of Lorna Cordeiro, to whom Bombay Velvet is dedicated. Full of Goan music and the entry of jazz into Bombay, it has Palomi Ghosh playing the main lead, for which she won a National Award this year. If you get a DVD, do pass on it to me too.