Bombay Velvet has been in the news for a long time, and not for all the right reasons. Rumors ranging from actors feeling letdown, multiple re-shoots being scheduled, to the movie going over budget (way over budget) have plagued Bombay Velvet, creating an expensive underdog. The much awaited film has finally released and is indeed, a beautifully decorated disaster.
Bombay of the 1950s and 60s is on the verge of a boom, and everyone worth their salt is trying to get a piece of the action. Johnny Balraj (Ranbir Kapoor) is an ambitious street fighter dreaming of escaping the world of hard knocks and becoming a hotshot. Enter powerful media mogul Kaizad Khambatta (Karan Johar) who sees promise in the rough, Bombay-slang speaking Johnny and gives him the chance to manage the swankiest jazz nightclub in town: Bombay Velvet.
Alongside Johnny’s rise from a nobody to a somebody is the ascent of Rosie Noronha (Anushka Sharma) — an exquisite, broken bird whose soaring voice captivates the audience and captures Johnny’s heart. As love between Johnny and Rosie deepens, they find themselves entangled in an intricate web created by the war between Kaizad and rival publisher Jimmy Mistry (Manish Chaudhary).
Cinematography: Rajeev Ravi does a beautiful job of showcasing the grandeur that is club Bombay Velvet. When Rosie takes the stage and is greeted by a magnificent theater with giant chandeliers sparkling and spotlights weaving through the dark, it’s truly a sight to behold. Warm tones give the film a feeling of another era and shadows nicely fill the frame.
Art Direction/Production Design: Kudos to the team for recreating the Bombay of yore, as sets are well crafted and attention is given to props. It’s obvious much money was spent in this department and moments of marvel come mostly from the scale and splendor of the Bombay Velvet world.
Karan Johar: In his first role with solid screentime, the popular producer/director/talk show host plays what the world already sees him as: a Bombay big-wig who has the power to create movie stars. Johar is a pleasant surprise, as he has screen presence and acts with confidence. In one scene he leaves Kaizad and laughs like the Karan many know from Koffee With Karan. But breaking character is forgiven as it becomes one of the more entertaining points in the film.
Writing: Forget Kaizad and Jimmy — writing is the real villain of this film. Bombay Velvet truly has no sense of purpose, as neither the story nor characters are defined. A Bombay double decker can easily pass through loopholes in the screenplay and while dialogues are not terrible, most aren’t memorable.
Direction: Whether he likes it or not, Anurag Kashyap’s name carries certain expectations and unfortunately none of them are met. Bombay Velvet is missing a clear voice as well as style synonymous with Kashyap. It’s easy to place fault on giving the director such a large budget — he seems to do his best work when fighting to get a film made.
Obvious homages: Iconic moments from many movies are recreated in Bombay Velvet including Scarface, The Godfather, Raging Bull, and La Vie En Rose to name a few. One can appreciate paying respect to mentors, but popular images appearing over and over again feel less like nods and more like robbery.
Editing: This is a tough one to list as it’s not clear whether one should express anger at the editors (Prerna Saigal and Oscar-winner Thelma Schoonmaker) or sympathy. A film can be given fresh life or meet its demise on the editing table, but given the poor writing and direction, it must’ve been quite the task to create something out of nothing. Bombay Velvet is a world of confusion moving at a patience-testing pace.
Innocent Bystanders, Caught In The Crossfire
Acting: It’s no secret Ranbir Kapoor is considered to be one of the most talented actors of his generation. But watching Kapoor in this film is like witnessing a lone man paddling, with all his might, to save the sinking Titanic. Anushka Sharma who shined in the recent NH-10, shows less range here. But the lady certainly puts her all into scenes where she sings her heart out, especially during Dhadam Dhadam, and is a believable as a lost soul. Bluntly put, the writing and direction have betrayed the leading couple.
Music: Imagine listening to melodious tracks through poorly made headphones — songs become less enjoyable and more annoying. Amit Trivedi’s music is foot-tapping and nicely captures the 50s and 60s, while having a present day freshness. But as the movie drags and song after song plays, the music sadly aggravates the nerves.
Raveena Tandon Thadani: Thadani plays a crooner and dons spectacular costumes which would make any Las Vegas entertainer envious. Age seems to have barely touched the 90s actress, and even though she’s onscreen for hardly a few minutes, her charisma comes through. Next time give Ravishing Ravs some lines!
Bombay Velvet is a marvelously decorated project devoid of sound foundation and construction, making for a dreadful movie-going experience. If you’re craving a Hindi film watch the delightful family film Piku instead, which will likely outlast Bombay Velvet at the marquee.