Read Our Guest Blogger Tipu Sultan’s Movie Review of Bombay Velvet (2015)
Tipu literally lives, sleeps and almost eats (with) movies. A student of Mass Communications, he excels in sketching, is brilliant with his razor-sharp writing and still reads Batman and Superman comics!
He also maintains a movie blog – Cineman Presents http://cinemanpresents.blogspot.in/
Bombay Velvet: A massive, misguided misfire.
Anurag Kashyap’s gangster extravaganza misfires like two Tommy Guns being fired at once.
Rating – 2/5
With his first reference (which is cited repeatedly in the movie) to Cagney’s 1939 gangster masterpiece, The Roaring Twenties, Kashyap makes one thing clear right off the bat. This film is going to be riddled with references and throwbacks. That they all won’t be as enjoyable we couldn’t realise early on.
In a second half mired by botched writing and misguided characters, the film packs in multiple references to traditional Bollywood tropes: Double roles, ridiculous MacGuffins (which, as MacGuffins go, really amount to nothing in the narrative), the tragic anti-hero’s rise and subsequent fall. It is all there, even when you don’t want it to be.
But that bit of bad writing can be attributed to Kashyap’s blind love for cinema. Nothing wrong with a few innocent but overtly jarring subplots that only complicate the plot if it’s done with the right intentions. Right?
But then comes a scene where Karan Johar’s character is amused by Ranbir’s handicapped English. So much so that he takes a sidebar, steps out into the lawn, laughs for a full minute looking into the camera, then ushers himself (and probably the audience) back in with the wave of a hand. Why was this scene ever written, I will never know. Why was it realised in this way, I can never guess.
There are countless flaws in Bombay Velvet. Most of them stemming from the script. It is surprising to see such a weak script result from the collaboration of four writers, one of them being the director and another the writer of the original book the film is based on.
The motivations for many characters are muddled throughout the screenplay as they undergo change of hearts faster than Anushka and her wardrobe. However, the biggest sin remains an unresolved subplot which became the basis to sell this two and a half hour advertisement for Anurag Kashyap’s set building capabilities and vision in the trailers.
I have never seen an Anurag Kashyap movie which completely satisfied me in terms of script, but this is a new low.
The casting is another great weakness which majorly put me off. Ranbir Kapoor is neither endearing nor intimidating as the street fighter/mobster henchman. Despite the (misguided) ambition he remains just that; a fighter and a henchman. Never the fiercely charismatic leading man you are both afraid of and look up to at the same time.
And while hubris is the defining trait of all such narcissistic type anti-heroes, in Balraj’s case it doesn’t seem well founded.
Everyone else fizzles too, from a disappointingly suave Kay Kay Menon, to the eye-candy Anushka Sharma who barely gets a line in the first half hour. Karan Johar however, delivers an unexpectedly decent performance as the scheming and flamboyant villain. Yet he too has his share of silly scenes such as the one mentioned above.
And my third biggest gripe with the movie is the inept way in which Kashyap handled the budget. After showering tons of money into building big, empty sets that scream ‘Fake! CGI! Ehrmahgerd!’ as soon as there is a long shot of the street from some height, he amazingly failed to create a cohesive narrative that was tied in with the visual effects, of which there are a lot.
Every time Khambatta’s newspaper headlines swam onto the Bombay skyline in big, tacky red letters I cringed. When the future of Bombay was shown in a cheap infographic that seemed to belong to some sub-par YouTube video, I heaved.
I know it’s not the defining characteristic of a movie, how it handles fleeting visual effects and subtitles but to see it being done so ridiculously on film with a scale as big as this is absurd.
All said and done, Bombay Velvet is not without its few redeeming qualities. Primary among them is the heavenly lighting that was the only consistent thing about the movie. This is an exceptionally lit and exceptionally shot film and I cannot praise it enough for that.
Even if they seem unreal at times, many portions of the set seem pretty authentic too. And despite everything, the grandeur which Kashyap tried to flash, thankfully, is ultimately relayed to the viewer.
I would have loved for that Tommy Gun sequence to be slightly longer (and definitely more rewarding!) but it still remains the highlight of the movie.
Overall, Bombay Velvet is a disaster of a film. With weak direction all across the board, shoddy writing and pitiable acting, there is little in the film to interest you. Even though the music is well placed and the editing by Prerna Saigal is serviceable (it will be exciting to see what Schoonmaker can do with this mess in the International version, though) there isn’t much to look forward to in Bombay Velvet.
Apart from watching Anurag Kashyap destroy his credibility and perhaps even career on a fallacious vanity project.
That should be interesting.