Film Review: Bombay Velvet is a master piece, tribute to the city

Film Review: Bombay Velvet
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka, Kay Kay Menon, Vivaan Shah and introducing Karan Johar, Raveena Tandon Thadani, Satyadeep Mishra
Music: Amit Trivedi
Production Design: Sonal Sawant
Choregraphy: Ashley Lobo
Cinematography: Rajeev Ravi
Producers: Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, Vikas Bahl, Madhu Mantena
Directed by: Anurag Kashyap
Rating: Four Stars

Crunching numbers is a misnomer in the form of box office collection that can seal a film's fate every Friday. Bombay Velvet is a film noir which I was finally able to watch today and despite the negative reviews panning the film online, I followed my heart. At one glance: Anurag Kashyap's Bombay Velvet is a brilliant and magnificent movie, paying a fitting tribute to the Bombay of another era where the underbelly world has been deftly explored, extracting the best from worthy actors such as Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma who have done full justice to their roles.

The film starts with the portrayal of Bombay in the late 40s, old buildings, sea face, majestic roads, trains and buses to give us a feel of the city in those days. Anurag Kashyap is one director who never shies away from experimenting with flicks, be it No Smoking, That Girl in Yellow Boot, Black Friday, GoW and Bombay Talkies. His biggest forte lies in the narration of the story, well-sketched and detailed characters and the city as a background to his portrayal of life. In Bombay Velvet, Kashyap experimented with the city, studying the nuances of characters who come in the city with aspirations to make their life go bang. This is the strength of Bombay Talkies and credit goes to Kashyap where there is no single, dull moment in treating the subject, story, screenplay and direction.
Bombay Velvet belongs to the category of movies where one fails to follow the sequences, it is difficult to get a grasp and may end up feeling lost. The movie is a cinematic gem where experimenting with the subject, 'Bombay' as the backdrop is made vibrant and weaved as one of the characters.

Bombay is the alter ego of Balraj (Ranbir) and becomes his life, zing and strength. Both cannot exist without each other. The pace at which Bombay moves makes one glued to the seat, the camera movements and close-up scenes zooming on Johnny, Rosie, Chimman or Kaizad. In short, Bombay Velvet, based on Gyan Prakash's Mumbai Fables is slickly made, has pace, restrained at times where the underdog meets the super rich. It's a tribute to the gem made in 70s such as Deewar or Don, for that matter. The director's subtle yet sublime vision of cinema where he captures every single vision to the minutest in every frame, is a treat to watch.
In the past, there were movies such as Mere Naam Joker and Agneepath who failed to set the cash register rolling at the box office but ultimately, emerged as classics. Bombay Velvet belongs to such category and is a reference in terms of brilliant film-making, coming of age cinema, powerful narration and aesthetic approach to shoot the streets in the majestic city, 'Bombay' which is a world in itself. Brilliant characterization!
Bombay Velvet, for me, is a reference in film-making and what meaningful cinema is all about. Kashyap Sir, I need a part 2. Bombay Velvet is a tribute to the good old Bombay, mills, streets and somehow, I feel is an extension of Kashyap's life and struggle in the city. The director deserves applause for giving Ranbir an award winning performance and for extracting the best in Anushka Sharma, showcasing Vivaan Shah in a different light and giving Karan Johar something to boast about on his impressive cv. Johar made a decent debut as the villain and is competent. Bombay Velvet will remain in the history of cinema as a bold reference and Kashyap should be credited for never shying away from experimenting the noir coupled with sexuality. The film is a swan song for movies portraying 'Bombay' with sensibility and competence.

Ranbir Kapoor has added another feather to his cap as Balraj re-christened Johnny by Khambata and proves why he is one of the most versatile actors, experimenting with challenging roles every time. As Johnny aka Balraj, the Kapoor scion delivers a power-packed and award winning performance. Definitely, Ranbir should be in the list for the Best actor award and deserves every single honor. Ranbir's raw intensity, suppressed anger, eyes doing the taking and obsessing over his lady love makes him move one notch higher. Anushka Sharma as Rosie Noronha, plays a jazz singer who has been exploited by every man in town, bedding her but finally finds love in Johnny. Anushka is a versatile actor who has always done justice to the role she plays and injects freshness by playing Rosie. Though, Bombay Velvet is all about Bombay now Mumbai and Ranbir, Anushka leaves an impact by playing her part in a convincing manner, matching stalwarts such as Ranbir, Karan Johar and Kay Kay Menon at every single step. She plays it out intensely and echoes the view of a modern girl who refuses to be cowed down by a man. A deserving act.
Bombay Velvet marks the debut of KJO on the silver screen and he does a fine job as Kaizad Khambatta. He plays a gay character, who has an inkling for Johnny but controls Bombay and never shies away to send his wife to trap his targets. As the villain, KJO has done a fine job, though a certain intensity, instilling fear is missing. Vivaan Shah made his debut in Farah Khan's Happy New Year and plays an intense-cum-mature role where he has done justice. The young actor shows his potential playing a difficult character in lesser screen time but shines. Kay Kay Menon as the cop is competent but, however, has few moments. However, Menon is effortless in his limited screen presence.

What's Not!
Bombay Velvet is a tribute to the Bombay of 70s which I am alien to. The director has shot the movie frame-to-frame with competence that makes one relate to it. However, one would wish the film-maker would further explore the under-belly in the city and put more emphasis on the conflict between mill workers, exploring further the communist vs capitalist fight as well as the red light area. How one would wish that Kashyap would have given a bigger screen presence to Menon as I mentioned, exploring conflict between the latter on one hand and Ranbir, Karan, on the other. As a villain, KJO has done a commendable job but the menace, intensity, eye expression and grave look is missing in his version of Kaizad Khambatta.

Final Frame aka climax:
Picture credit: Google India
Anurag Kashyap's camera zooms on the city, accompanying you right from the first reel and real to reality, the moment you set foot in the city, armed with dreams and aspirations. Bombay Velvet celebrates life in the city that never sleeps and this is what Mumbai or Bombay at that time, is all about. The director's vision of the city, right from the time the camera rolls, sparking action till the end, his attention to uncanny details, sublime cinematography and clean editing makes Bombay Velvet a magnificent movie. The director's eye for aesthetic charm in his picturization of the city or shooting the kissing scenes between Ranbir and Anushka remains the strong elements. Kashyap's bring to the fore sexuality, with Kaizad eyeing Johnny from top to toe or mouthing, 'Rosie mein tumne kya dekha jo mujme nahin tha' or 'Bambai ke bahar kya hai pata hai? India. Aur wahan pe bhukhmari hai.' It's about aspirations in the city of dreams. A disturbing reality exploring the underbelly in the city, Bombay Velvet has some amazing tracks, be it the track featuring Raveena Tandon Thadani or Anushka, Mohabbat Buri Bimari, Dhadaam Dhadaam Aam Aadmi, the stylish cars and picturisation makes it a small master-piece. Perhaps, I belong to the small majority that is giving a thumps up to Bombay Velvet but it's one movie that will be a reference to old Bombay and experimental cinema.

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