Bombay Velvet: from black to Black Label


What’s a director like Anurag Kashyap to do, when his project is flush with funds and is headlined by Hindi film industry’s young, pushing-the-envelope, adventurous actors? Should he give up his black label (tag) and move to Black Label (premium tag)? As it so happens, he chooses the latter. Set in the Bombay of the 50’s and 60’s,Bombay Velvet is a multi-threaded, multi-storied period piece that stuns visually with its painstaking recreation of the prohibition era. There’s exhilarating views of Marine Drive, of what could have been once Regal cinema, of Irani hotels, and some beautiful by-lanes in South Bombay. All of which is superb optics. And amazing work by art director Amit Sawant, and set designers Kazvin Dangor, Rose Maria, and Tharakan.

There’s the first 40 minutes of the movie that moves at breakneck speed, and you await breathlessly for the next half to blow you away. The characters are introduced quickly, their interests and stories intertwine promisingly and swiftly. There’s Balraj (Ranbir Kapoor) who’s a on-the-boil street-fighter, wanting to get rich and quick with his friend Chiman (Satyadeep Mishra, strangely looking as if he doesn’t belong to that era); there’s Rosie (Anushka Sharma) wanting fame and money in singing showbiz; there’s Kaizad Khambatta (Karan Johar), an unscrupulous uptown bad boy who has his hands in many enterprises, but surprisingly invests money in Balraj and a new club called Bombay Velvet; there’s Siddharth Basu as Bombay’s villainous mayor; there’s the editor of Glitz magazine (Manish Chaudhary) a la R.K. Karanjia of Blitz wanting to bring down the crooks; there’s Kay Kay Menon investigating all the dirty, murderous dealings that threaten the very core of Bombay city; there’s Vivaan Shah’s character who’s unabashedly in love with Rosie.

And then, there’s Gyan Prakash’s story based on the incredible premise of Bombay’s Back Bay reclamation history that ties all these characters together. And for some time, the threads come together, the story gets darker and you await in tense anticipation for that climactic drop. What happens instead is an unwanted origami of these subplots into a heart-shaped love story between Ranbir and Anushka’s characters. And at some point in the movie, you figure out what’s going to happen next. And unfortunately, it does.

The cast has its moments, though. Ranbir’s maniacal, murderous outburst when he learns of Rosie’s past; Anushka’s seething, yet dead-calm showdown with the editor; and Karan Johar’s infectious giggle put to fabulous use in a scene where he gets up during a meeting with Ranbir and his friend, goes out, sputters uncontrollably, and comes back straight-faced.

Composer Amit Trivedi had a dream project on his hands. And he gives it a nice swing, but misses the big mark. The club songs are nice, but after some time, sound as if extensions of one another. I was waiting for the big, brassy swing in the background score, and it arrives superbly, but only in the climactic shootout in Bombay Velvet’s kitchen. And disappears as quickly. Again, how I missed Rahul Dev Burman here.

Maybe, just maybe, Anurag Kashyap ought to switch labels and get some reclamation done in his movie space?

To buy Bombay Velvet’s music, click here:

bv cd

To buy Gyan Prakash’s book, Mumbai Fables, click here:


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