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'Bombay Velvet': A disaster

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MUMBAI: A film's first test is in its title. Teasers, promos and the rest come much later. A bad or irrelevant title displays utter lack of imagination besides having no connect with the film. Bombay Velvet is based on a historian, Gyan Parakash's book, Mumbai Fables.



Bombay/Mumbai is comparatively a new city turned metro during mid-20th century and Karachi enjoyed the status Mumbai grabbed later. It started after the seven islands were linked as one land mass. 



In this case, Mumbai has a history and its passing heroes, villains and other legends but no fables to speak of. The book's title being a misnomer, the film makes its story a fantasy a la Dick Tracy sans Tracy, the cop, of the comic strip, who is missing here while his main villain, Flattop Jones, a hired gun is made the hero. Otherwise, you may call it a prohibition era American film transplanted as a 1960s Hindi film with Mumbai background. 



Ranbir Kapoor arrives in Mumbai with a woman he thinks is his mother but is not so sure. All heroes need a sidekick, soon he cultivates one too. By scene two, both are grownups and

have graduated to petty crimes. As has been seen in many such films, while the hero is impulsive and violent, the sidekick is more balanced and logical. 

Ranbir has no scruples and he can clobber a man to death as easily as he can pick a pocket. His only ambition is to become a big shot; when he grows big, he wants to be bigger. If you have not found anything novel or interesting so far, there is no hope of it coming your way hereafter.



The film is about all the wrong people coming on one screen (though Mumbai was never that way nor it is now). Mumbai was a city where even its dons were respected till

the early 1990s. 

There are big players in the city and they realize the talent of Ranbir, the most impressed being Karan Johar. Karan is a fixer, who turns deals and is in cahoots with Siddharth Basu though you never learn what Basu is: a lawyer, a politician or another fixer? He is impressed just because Ranbir tries to enter a bank and tries to steal his money by barely poking his two fingers pretending he has a gun! Karan is a big shot, wielding great power and one wonders why he's at a bank to withdraw money when his personal staff can do it for him.



Karan, however, is mighty impressed and offers Ranbir contracts to kill people. You don't know where this film is going until the reality hits that it is going nowhere! Ranbir is a pawn in the hands of Karan but not for long. He wants his share of the pie to be well-defined now that he is in the inner circle of the clique. 



Ranbir has to frame an honest politician who can't be bought with money. He is a hurdle in Karan and his clique's plans. It is unclear why they don’t shoot him dead like they do all others. On such occasions, Karan uses his wife as a bait to lure the person. The politician is so honest, he accepts only Scotch and women in his bed. This film has some legendary character sketches. 



Meanwhile, there is also a chapter on Portuguese Goa. Anushka Sharma, a choir singer child impresses Remo Fernandes. You are not told who he is or what he amounts to but he convinces her mother to send her with him. Next you know, he is torturing and sexually abusing her. Again, by scene two, she is a grown up. This time when Remo enters her room to deliver her daily lashes, she beats the hell out of him and escapes to land in Mumbai to come acros who else but Ranbir. 



These absurdities go on and on for over 150 minutes until the film comes to a predictable yet welcome end. Phew! 



As for a script, none exists. The film proceeds on whims. Everybody is double-crossing or backstabbing the other for no apparent reason. No character is etched out in detail. They come and it is left to you to figure out but soon you don’t care. 



The script is poor and has no consistency. It was such an amateur idea to start the film in sepia and duo tone when you are going to show rest of the film in colour. (Manoj Kumar did that to great effect in Purab Aur Paschim when he shot his film in black and white until a flight from London enters Indian airspace and then turns in to colour film). In those days, gang wars were fought with Rampuri knives, swords and soda water bottles, nobody used guns, let alone Tommy guns. 



Direction? There is none in this film. The director is obsessed with his period film idea so much so that he carries his vintage cars into 1960 when Fiat and Ambassador ran the roads. The edifices created for the era were non-existent (this reviewer having grown through that era). 1960s belonged to Beatles and other popular pop groups but the film sticks to jazz.

 

Mumbai night clubs were famous for their late night cabarets, not Goan jazz singers, which found its patrons mainly in five star ball rooms not in a seedy night joint like Bombay Velvet. The director is totally at sea when it comes to knowing Mumbai of those days. Editing is poor. Music is out of sync. 



And, what is it with getups? Ranbir Kapoor, a fairly decent looking guy has been made to wear an MGR kind of wig and, resultantly, he looks like a comic character. Anushka Sharma is made to look like 1950s and 60s Hollywood B grader. Karan can't act; the only time he evokes a reaction is when he wants to know what Ranbir saw in Anushka that he did not in Karan! But then, that was the era of closet gay. 

Kay Kay Menon, the only decent actor in the supporting cast, plays a Crime Branch cop in the era when Mumbai Crime Branch was compared to Scotland Yard. But, he is nowhere around when Ranbir litters the South Mumbai streets with corpses. And, CID in felt hats and ties and blazers? This man, Kashyap, is joking. There are a few other side players who hardly matter since the director does not even bother to introduce them.

 

Bombay Velvet is a disaster. 



Producers: Vikas Bahl, Vikramaditya Motwane, Fox Star Studios.

Direcor: Anurag Kashyap.

Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Kay Kay Menon, Karan Johar, Manish Choudhary, Siddharth Basu, Remo Fernandes, Satyadeep Mishra, Vivaan Shah, Ravina Tandon (cameo).

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