Fox Star Studios and Phantom’s Bombay Velvet (UA) is the story of an ambitious young man, Johnny Balraj (Ranbir Kapoor), and is set in Bombay of 1950s and 1960s.
Balraj (master Yash Sehgal) starts out as a young pickpocket when he joins Chiman Chopra (master Siddharth Thakur). The two grow up to be criminals and are thick friends. Balraj is more ambitious while Chiman (Satyadeep Misra) is more careful. One day, businessman Kaizad Khambatta (Karan Johar) takes Balraj under his wings and both, Balraj and Chiman, start working for him. Khambatta is a wheeler-dealer and an opportunist and sees potential in Balraj as an aide who would help him (Khambatta) realise his dreams of making fast and big money.
Khambatta opens a club, Bombay Velvet, for Balraj, whom he rechristens Johnny. Although the investment in the club is Kaizad Khambatta’s, Johnny is the de facto owner for the world.
Rosie Noronha (Anushka Sharma) is a club singer and she soon joins the Bombay Velvet club where she entertains customers. Rosie, a close accomplice of Jimmy Mistry (Manish Chaudhry), has actually been planted in the club by Jimmy so that she can get her hands on the negative of an incriminating photograph taken by Johnny Balraj for Khambatta. The picture shows minister Rao Saheb Desai (Atul Shrivastav) in a compromising position with Khambatta’s own wife. The unscrupulous Khambatta had sent his wife to Desai and had asked Johnny Balraj to click their photographs in bed, so that he could use the same to blackmail him into giving the contract for developing parts of Bombay into a business district. While Johnny Balraj has given the pictures to Khambatta, he keeps the negative with himself so that he can someday blackmail Khambatta too. At Khambatta’s behest, Johnny Balraj also kidnaps trade union leader Deshpande (Sandesh Jadhav) who has been opposing the displacement of mills for the upcoming business district in Bombay.
While working at the Bombay Velvet club, Rosie falls in love with Johnny Balraj who also loves her. Rosie, therefore, refuses to oblige Jimmy Mistry and doesn’t give him the negative. Khambatta and Jimmy Mistry are old rivals and they both own newspapers. Another photograph of Khambatta hobnobbing with Bombay mayor Romi Mehta (Siddhartha Basu) and others, gets leaked to the media, much to the embarrassment of Khambatta. That’s when Khambatta accuses Rosie of being Jimmy Mistry’s mole and he asks Johnny Balraj to kill her.
Johnny Balraj carries out Khambatta’s order and plants a bomb in Rosie’s house but he saves her before the explosion, while planting another girl there so that it appears to the world, and to Khambatta, that Rosie has died.
Police officer Vishwas Kulkarni (Kay Kay Menon) is investigating the disappearance of trade union leader Deshpande and also gets involved in the Rosie murder case. He is also in charge of the disappearance of a photographer (Akash Vijay Dabas) who was last seen at Bombay Velvet club. Obviously, therefore, Vishwas Kulkarni interacts with Johnny Balraj. Meanwhile, Johnny Balraj has become over-ambitious now and wants a share in profits from the development contract bagged by Khambatta. Obviously, Khambatta is not happy with Johnny Balraj’s thinking.
Johnny Balraj and Khambatta now start working at cross-purposes. One day, Khambatta orders Johnny Balraj’s execution and asks the latter’s bosom pal, Chiman, to do the job. When he learns of this, Johnny Balraj is livid and thirsting for Khambatta’s blood. In the meantime, police officer Vishwas Kulkarni becomes aware that Johnny holds the key to a lot of criminal activity going on and is, therefore, hot on his trail. Khambatta, in any case, wants Johnny Balraj dead.
So what happens finally? Who kills whom and how?
The film is based on an original story by Gyan Prakash. The script has been written jointly by Gyan Prakash, Thani, Vasan Bala and Anurag Kashyap with additional writing by Gul Dharmani, Megha Ramaswamy and Anubhuti Kashyap. The story and screenplay are ridiculously weak and the first half actually tests the audience’s patience because it is not only disjointed but also moves at an excruciatingly slow pace. The speed picks up after the interval but the whole drama fails to involve the audience which, therefore, ends up only dispassionately watching it unfold. There is no sense of belonging which the viewers experience. Also, there is hardly a happy moment in the film or even an entertaining one. Every character is either a crook or has depression written on his/her face, making it seem like the world has no right people at all.
The second half of the film becomes like a routine vendetta drama seen in hundreds of earlier films. The whole track of development of Bombay city is so sketchily written that terms like Nariman Point and Backbay Reclamation will not even be understood by those living outside Bombay. In effect, the writers have treated the crux of the story so shabbily and so half-heartedly that their absolute lack of application of mind and slacker attitude is there for all to see. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that there are hardly any scenes which would bring even a smile to the viewer’s face, leave alone make him laugh. In other words, the drama and the whole atmosphere in which it unfolds, is morose and depressing.
The script is also one of complete convenience. Kaizad Khambatta is shown to be a smart wheeler-dealer but he is such an idiot that he blackmails the minister with pictures showing him (minister) in a compromising position with his (Khambatta’s) own wife. What if the minister were to turn around and tell Khambatta that in exposing him (minister), Khambatta also stood to be hopelessly exposed? Is Khambatta so hard-pressed for money that he can’t afford to pay a girl of easy virtues to share the bed with the minister if only for the purpose of clicking the photographs? Again, Khambatta is supremely smart but has no idea that a romance is brewing between Johny Balraj and Rosie right in his club! Johny Balraj announces to the world that Rosie is dead but loses no time in introducing her identical twin sister as if he is convinced that the world is full of dumb people who’d buy his story of twin sisters. Wouldn’t common sense prompt Johnny Balraj to keep Rosie or rather whom he calls Rosie’s twin, far from the prying eyes of the people who know him. All in all, the writers seem to be in a defiant mood and have gone ahead and done whatever has appealed to them without really caring for what the audiences would feel. There are stereotypes in Hindi cinema and there are stereotypical situations and characters, and if the large team of writers thought it would break the stereotypes, it ought to have come up with at least a sensible story. One cannot hope to break the stereotypes with a half-baked and absolutely dishonest script as that of Bombay Velvet. Dialogues, penned by the writing team, are good only at a few places. Otherwise, even they are routine and commonplace.
Before talking about the performances of the stars, let it be said that one expects nothing short of outstanding work from the actors in a film of the scale of Bombay Velvet, what with Rs. 90 crore having been spent on its making. But not a single actor stands out with a landmark performance. Ranbir Kapoor is good in the role of Johnny Balraj and puts in sincere work. He has taken care to look like a young man of the 1960s and his hairstyle suits him. Anushka Sharma’s only job in the film seems to be singing songs or crying. She is alright. Karan Johar performs fairly well as villain Kaizad Khambatta. Satyadeep Misra is earnest but doesn’t get a single meaty scene to show his talent. Kay Kay Menon is first-rate as police officer Vishwas Kulkarni. Siddhartha Basu has his moments as Romi Mehta. Vivaan Shah is okay as Tony. Sandesh Jadhav (in the role of Deshpande), Jagdish Rajpurohit (as commissioner of police), Remo Fernandes (as the Portuguese man), Akash Vijay Dabas (as the photographer), Denzil Smith (as Larsen), Vicky Kaushal (as Basil), Varun Grover (as the emcee), Shanti (as Khambatta’s wife), Sarika Singh (as Chiman’s wife), Prerna Tiwari (as Jimmy Mistry’s wife), Atul Shrivastav (as Rao Saheb Desai), master Yash Sehgal (as young Balraj), master Siddharth Thakur (as young Chiman) and baby Tanya Sharma (as young Rosie) lend average support. Raveena Tandon adds glamour value as the club singer. Others are alright.
Anurag Kashyap’s direction fails to cut the ice with the audience. Like the script, which has niche appeal, his narrative style will be liked by a very thin section of the audience only. For the large mass base of audience, the script as well as the direction would afford little excitement or meaning. Amit Trivedi’s music is another major minus point. The Jazz base of the music wouldn’t find favour with the youngsters. A couple of songs, particularly ‘Fifi’ (remixed by Mike McCleary) and ‘Mohabbat buri bimaari’ (also by Mike McCleary) and ‘Behrupiya’ (Amit Trivedi) are well-tuned but, as mentioned above, they have their limitations for the youth of today. Amitabh Bhattacharya’s lyrics are alright. Choreography of the songs by Ashley Lobo is in keeping with the era in which the film is set. Amit Trivedi’s background music is appropriate. Rajeev Ravi’s cinematography is wonderful. Chuck Picerni Jr.’s action scenes are okay. Sameer Sawant’s art direction and Sonal Sawant’s production designing is excellent. Visual effects deserve special mention. Editing by Thelma Schoonmaker and Prerna Saigal leaves something to be desired.
On the whole, Bombay Velvet is a colossal waste of money and resources. It is devoid of entertainment value and will, therefore, fail miserably at the box office. There is nothing velvet-like about it. Rather, it is as coarse as unprocessed jute.