Rough and Smooth
Film: Bombay Velvet
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Karan Johar
Directed by: Anurag Kashyap
Duration: 2 hrs 30 mins
Rating: * * *
Based on historian Gyan Prakash’s book Mumbai Fables, Bombay Velvet gives us a glimpse of how Bombay became the big bad city in the late 60’s. Against this backdrop, at the heart of the film, there is a love story between a gangster and a jazz club singer. The story oscillates between the love birds and the politics of the city with the prohibition era, politicians joining hands with builders, the mafia taking over. The city aspect of the film wins hands down, the love story is a bit of a downer.
The film opens with a young boy who goes on to become Johnny Balraj (Ranbir Kapoor) in Bombay, just a couple of years after independence. He along with his side-kick Chiman (Satyadeep Misra) are small time thugs but Johnny boy is harboring big ambitions. He watches James Cagney die in the arms of Pricilla Lane in The Roaring Twenties (1939), “He used to be a big shot” she says. Now Johnny also wants to be one. Like Bachchan’s character in Deewar, another film more or less in the same era, the young man will do anything to make it to the top. The motivation for the same is not very clear or convincing.
He falls in love with Rosie (Anushka Sharma) a jazz crooner with a troubled childhood. She is sent to spy on Johnny by a newspaper editor (Manish Chaudhary) but expectedly, ends up falling in love with him.
Johnny is also a part time cage fighter and by chance, he meets Khambatta (Karan Johar) a ruthless baron who has his finger in many pies, mostly illegal ones. The ambitious young man becomes his right hand man and is given charge of Bombay Velvet, the most happening club in town.
Scrupulous politicians and greedy builders who want to make hay by forcing the sunshine are also a part of the scene. The film uses many real life references right from the prohibition which closed down many clubs in Bombay to mill workers agitation and the land grab that happened to form the famous Nariman Point are all part of the story, which is fabulous.
What doesn’t particularly work well is the love story which is more or less like any another love story but the city angle that Kashyap has explored is unique in many ways. The plot also gets unnecessarily contrived in the second half and the other problem is the characterization – we don’t really know what his motives are and what keeps him ticking –he is like a race driver who wants to finish first but is driving without any strategy in place.
The production design and period details are from the top draw. This is perhaps as authentic and eye catching as it can get. Constantly, throughout the film, even when the story dips, the visuals grab your attention.
The music and background score by Amit Trivedi fits the bill perfectly, including a rehash of O.P. Nayyars Jaata Kahan Hain Deewane (which was shot for CID but didn’t make it to the final cut). Of the cast, a ravishing Raveena Tandon is seen performing a song and Karan Johar in his maiden appearance makes an impression. The supporting cast of Manish Chaudhary, Kay Kay Menon and especially Satyadev Misra deserve a mention. Anushka Sharma is aptly cast as Rosie and Ranbir Kapoor is good in parts – at times, an actor can only get as good as the character.
All said and seen, this velvet is not very smooth but it is still worth a try.
Published in The Navhind Times, Goa on 17th May 2015