Bombay Velvet Review: Aesthetics will have you hooked while everything else fails.
It was in the late 1960s that Bombay was going through major changes after the partition took place where everyone was trying to make a place for themselves in the city. Everyone was trying to throw acquire power amidst the grandeur and mystical landscape of ever-changing Bombay. It was in the late 1960s that even Balraj (Ranbir) decides, “Apun ko big shot banneka hai.”
Balraj (Ranbir) is portrayed to be a man with exuberance to dream big, a man who is pompous, virile while also romantic and candid. Playing opposite to him in the movie is Anushka Sharma, in the role of Rosie, a wannabe jazz singer, or rather just a damsel in distress who needs the love and attention of Balraj to save her. Does the story end here? No, my friend. It isn’t a love story. It is a movie about the vibrant dynamics of the past Bombay that used to thrive with life and run by rich and corrupt businessmen and politicians.
The movie, set in the late 60s is redefined and modified by Anurag Kashyap in terms of luxury and Kashyap has spent a lot of effort in creating a Bombay that isn’t devoid of the culture of historical Bombay. He brilliantly achieves this by paying heed to the directorial aspects of the film, and by re-creating every detail such as from costumes to the cars that roam the streets. However, disappointingly, the movie has failed in various other aspects that we expected it to deliver since we watched the trailers.
Before I get into the detail of “what could have been and what shouldn’t have been”s of the movie, let me briefly summarize the movie for you so you catch lead. Balraj is a street fighter and moves to Bombay after the partition to survive. There is a little #throwbackthursday to his childhood where we can relatively try to understand where he gets the drive for his ambition. We see that his mother was a prostitute and he grew up in a brothel and already knew where his life was heading. That’s right—the thug life. Balraj soon meets Rosie and falls in love, however the on-screen chemistry of the two protagonists fails to capture the audience. Oh, did I say on-screen chemistry? Sorry, there wasn’t any to start with.
Balraj enters the big world of tycoons of Bombay with the help of Kaizad Khambatta (Karan Johar). Balraj works for Khambatta and takes equal part in the myriad twists of everyone trying to become the “Bambai ki raja”. With so many subplots in the movie which has many individuals “trying” to shine, Kashyap fails to brighten them because he concentrates way more on the aesthetic detailing of the 60s. Even though Ranbir almost manages to deliver captivating performance within the character’s boundaries, the weakness lies in the fact that the character of Balraj itself isn’t capturing. Balraj lacks any explanation for the source of all his continuous sturdiness and also, the audience can’t connect to the protagonist who can’t reflect on his actions or his emotion.
After all, our audience want some tears in their eyes or keep their hearts pumping with excitement like Anurag Kashyap’s earlier movies such as Dev D. Bombay Velvet is utterly gorgeous to the eyes, but manages to have zero effect on the heart or the mind.