One feels slightly intimidated and/or browbeaten to review Anurag Kashyap's films. His films are like the songs of American rock band Coldplay - most of them don't make much sense and because they don't make much sense, they can mean anything. Bombay Velvet is one such product.
Set between the late 40s and the late 60s in Bombay, story of a migrant, Balraj (Kapoor), who lives his life to grow exponentially on his own terms is hardly convincing. He begins his life with the monies hauled through pickpocketing and starts living his puzzling dream when he falls into the clutches of a bootlegger called Khambata (Johar). The build-up is faint as the story picks up pace to set the theme, which is about greed for power and fame that fixates our little, glam-doll protagonist.
Fear of anachronism is visible from frame one, and the brutal attention to details - to recapture (one prefers "reinvent" though) 50s'-60s' Bombay - is the greatest highlight of the film. This means the story is absorbingly clichÃ©d.
The history of Bombay is heavily dealt with as the plot carves itself out, ending the crime drama with an epilogue that has a punctuation error in it. The touch of politics that drives the crime genre in the film is a cooler depiction of the developments that led to a city now called Mumbai, which became of Bombay and, is where I sit now and write this review. Now, THAT is fun to watch. Few familiar twists and turns drive the screenplay to a highly cribbed climax. Humor, if you can detect it, is wicked and forced.
Kapoor is phenomenal as the hero of the film, but my heart hardly ached for the lad as he went about gun-wielding to rip off men who denied his own way of maddeningly narcissistic life. The whole cast, including Sharma, Menon, and Basu do a beautiful job by staying in their characters. Debutante (that's what the intro credit says) Johar seems to have borrowed his natural effeminacy into the screen as he puts up a rather bad show at being a cool tycoon. His character is like a headless chicken who flounders (sic) after having pecked for cereals with other characters of the film. Pardon me for using a dialog from the film. If the makers can plagiarize (sorry, the right phrase is "be inspired"), why can't I?
I am tired of watching rip offs of that Godfather gun-in-the- flushbin idea, and that is when the film starts to fumble. With a soundtrack for the climax that reminds you of the Oscar Best Picture Birdman (2014) and FX TV show Fargo (2014), one can confirm the imagination quotient of the film. But do watch out for the mildest anti-smoking statutory warning in the history of Bollywood.
All said and done and having used few superlatives to describe the film's richness, I cannot use the word "original." And at a time when people go and die by originality, and partake in copyright fights, does a film made from ripping off old cult classics and popular ideas work? The audience have to decide. And boxing, if you wonder, from the trailers and the posters, is a gimmick. Apart from that, it is exhaustive at 150 long minutes.
BOTTOM LINE: Bombay Velvet, as an ambition, can be lauded for its art setup, which it never fails to brag about. But, with a phony villain and an over-smart hero, their joint saga is as raw as the blood that glimmers off the bodies of the men they kill. 5/10 - average.
Can be watched with a typical Indian family?