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.