The fizzling amidst the topping – Bombay Velvet Review

For a director like Anurag Kashyap, so conscious of sustaining the dark-brooding-truth revealing kind of cinema, a wider canvas isn’t always the best of scenarios to accomplish his ideals. It’s a gentle reminder of how something like Satya can work for an RGV in spite of a low-scale mounting and why his lavish Daud, a high-budgeted dream with surreal foreign locations, the very-marketable Sanjay Dutt, Urmila and AR Rahman’s music can come a cropper too.


In the aesthetically delicious Bombay Velvet, such an excuse of a film, there’s blissful scale and finesse in terms of the casting, where, on the visual and the aural fronts, you’re treated with such intricate cushioning of the period settings to the Jaata-Kahan-Hai Deewane backgrounds in the jazzy air of a Bombay Club.

At a point when a character expresses her singing interests to a cop, he asks to choose between a Asha and a Lata Mangeshkar, but she gives an expected Geeta Dutt as the answer. The experience feels an opera for a majority, where you look around to appreciate the architectural styling of the auditorium than what you actually get to see on the stage.

The film is narrated through the eyes of Johnny Balraj, played by Ranbir Kapoor, an apparent nobody, who lands in Mumbai with a motherly figure in his early years. Most of the characters here, as you expect in a film of this nature, are clouded by their personal mysteries. Everything’s actually in place for the film to explode.

There are fragile friendships, egos, betrayals, domestic troubles, drugs and brothels. On one front, you see the well-suited up higher class, whereas the under-nourished plot majorly explores the underbelly of a rather tender Bombay, still eyeing development and awaiting its uncrowned king. But, the craft here is so hidden,surface-y and given the sluggish pace at which it unfolds, the film never really wakes up from its self-inflicted shell.


While Detective Byomkesh Bakshy fantasised about a solid Calcutta tourism deal, Bombay Velvet falls nothing short of a tribute to its home-city either and the occasional Portuguese influences in the pre-1971 Goa. Both the films nearly pitch themselves as thrillers with added nostalgia, but the results are hardly anywhere. They’re technically so very proficient and the content, just doesn’t match up to the aura, they create with the background scores, the indulgent cinematography and the actors they have, Sushant Singh Rajput, Ranbir Kapoor and Anushka Sharma.

The character-sketches are so Kashyp-ian in nature, but the plot isn’t distracting enough to label him an auteur. Khambata is villanous as he’s ready to set his wife up for a night with an officer, who’s interfering in his ways. A cabaret dancer, Rosie Noronha is torn between loyalty and love. She discusses about a dream-life and death with her partner. The name is more or less a contrast to what her future holds, not-so-rosy. The journalist smokes with a pipe, spending his nights at clubs, women and otherwise, with a typewriter. There are rich industrialists, some fair and some not-so. Most of them lack any possible personality.

Karan Johar’s part has hardly anything to it beyond the lines. The lead character in a confused Ranbir Kapoor is painfully selfish and inconsistent. The film has a tragic culmination where there’s no hope. For a major part, the viewer feels the same too.


More of the place than mind- Detective Byomkesh Bakshy Review


There used to be times when you see actors uttering their lines in obviously low-key films, you yet again begin to feel, “This is another Mani Ratnam or a Ramgopal wannabe doing this with the typical low-base voices, just to signify there’s something important lying within them.” No, Dibakar Bannerjee is way too established a maker to do that. But, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! is that calmly sensuous thriller, where probably, bursting the bubble is given as much importance as the setting. Yes, it’s that very film where the external detailing woos you more than the whodunit patterns that get deciphered with time .

In thrillers, there’s never a sense of completion without exploring the place in an equal measure as the characters. Most often, filmmakers stress about the setting being another mysterious layer in the narrative. In Kahaani, we ended up talking equally about Kolkata and the frills. With Bobby Jasoos, there was more Hyderabadi indulgence than the mystery. With Byomkesh, besides a lot of Babus in Calcutta, there’s an additional setting with some nostalgia attached to the 1940’s. The indications of an international conspiracy begin soon enough. The freedom struggle is still on.

The film takes off with an extremely underplayed intensity and a murder to follow it up. The detective-air, as expected is spurred up so early. When Sushant Singh Rajput plays around with his identity as a stranger to the city in conversation with a house owner, the latter doesn’t take much time to trace where his second-hand Bata shoes came from. He is so spot-on about the tram that Byomkesh uses so early in the morning that the former gives up his bid to lie anymore.

There are enough clues thrown around. There are people who either react too much or deliberately don’t react. There are mentions of Japan, China and Burma. There’s regional politics. There’s an air of suspicion surrounding an actress, happening to be more of a seductress in portrayal. The intermission reverses every bit of it. That’s where, you know, the maker is no longer after the little answers or immediate needs. Byomkesh is suddenly pushed to be a probable national hero.


Amidst every twist and turn unfolding in the movie, the film starts losing its bite. The dominance of the flavour becomes more of a pain. There are western influences perking up in the background score.  There are too much of the Howrah Bridge-shots, the lakes, the dangerous side to the place in the nights. This gets to a point that you really tend to ask, “Can we move ahead of the typical arthouse layering please ? We’ve seen enough of it in the 90-odd minutes.”

And when you really sense some movement, there’s a lot of it that happens within a blink of an eye. Some social commentary again and the film loses its direction. By the end of it, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy stays in your minds more for the surreal atmosphere that’s a delicious mix of a city, the tensions and its ways. It’s a joke that the film may lead you to a sequel in the times to come. But, it’s like skipping a meal today to consume all of it tomorrow.