What a difference seven days creates; last week’s pathetic “Piku” is beautifully overshadowed by director Anurag Kashyap’s slick, luminous “Bombay Velvet”, set in 1969; Bombay is experiencing a burgeoning building tsunami; gritty graft, gangsters galore, sepia-toned cinematography; a homage to Hollywood gangster flicks of the 30’s and 40’s and actor James Cagney; the film commences with Cagney’s death scene in “The Roaring Twenties” (1939).
At its heart are a pair of star-crossed lovers trying to forge a niche in Bombay’s ugly underworld; both spawned in poverty, damaged, ambitious, loving recklessly, striving to stay beyond the fray.
Rambir Kapoor, (a descendant of the Kapoor acting dynasty) is “Johnny Balraj”, glib, sagacious; his moral compass, shredded by uncontrollable circumstances, he becomes involved with “Kaizad Khambatta” (complex, intriguing performance by Karan Johar); their untoward business negotiations result in Johnny’s proprietorship of the spectacular, shimmering, glitzy nightclub, “Bombay Velvet”. “Rosie”, (too placid Anushka Sharma), Bombay Velvet’s main attraction, soars with an angelic, silky, seductive voice; has had complete dominance over Johnny’s heart from their first breathless, fated encounter.
“Bombay Velvet” is based on non-fictional characters and resonates with the malfeasance and racketeering defining the times; it is not in the category of “Public Enemies” (John Dillinger) or “The Gangster Squad” (Mickey Cohen); Johnny is not the “big shot” he longed to be, but enough of a crime lord to make his rise and demise worthy of the 149 minutes dedicated to his legacy.