Saturday, May 23, 2015

Gangsta Chic Rum in Vintage Wine Glass: Bombay Velvet's Underwelming Underbelly

Smart Alec Parsees and uprooted Punjabis melt with tycoons and labour leaders in a cauldron that brews struggles for power, status and wealth amid rising skyscrapers and squalor. This is an excellent setting for a saga of wounded souls embracing and conspiring in romance and lust.
But overambition is a crime, be it an urban underbelly's anti-hero serenading a Portugese-scarred songstress or a Banaras boy trying to be a desi avant-garde Hollywood icon.
Anurag Kashyap, like Johnny Balraj played by a dedicated Ranbir Kapoor, shows spunk in a montage of taut plot, moving lyrics and nostalgia jazz. Yet Bombay Velvet underwhelms. It gets caught in a crossfire of style and crafting flaws. 
The characters jump too quickly in, with little etching. They all shake hands in curt Hollywood fashion in clumsy self-introductions. Close-ups make up for lack of aesthetic long shots or zooms. There is too much of Sphagetti Western influence that eats into the jazz mood. The characters are strong in some way but are way too middle-class in articulation. 
Karan Johar tries too hard as a manipulative wannabe, Ranbir shines with sincerity and Anushka Sharma fits the role despite her persona of not being a vulnerable screen figure. The music, inspite of the staccato violence that peppers the movie, stands out in poignant elegance. A lot of hardwork has evidently gone in: Sri Lankan locales, a pastiche of double-deckers, old-world brands and sepia knick-knacks.
But still...

Because India is not America, 1960s isn't 1930s, gangsta chic is not period authenticity, emotional trignometry is not social history.
And Kashyap is not Scorcese. 
Rum in a wine glass.

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