Kashyap's overflowing reverence for Martin Scorsese is hardly a surprise, for their mutual admiration stands on a firm footing of commonality. Hailing Scorsese as one of America's greatest filmmakers is as adventurous as felicitating Kashyap as a selfless crusader of meaningful cinema. Both are 'Good Fellas' as directors with a decent track record no doubt but their critical acclaim soars way higher than the profundity of their body of work. Kashyap's latest Bombay Velvet, much like Scorsese's 2010 Shutter Island, has been fed a staple diet of hype which makes its making a bigger film than the finished product.
Of course, this Kashyap has phenomenally jazzed up the velvety brand of Ranbir in the process, unlike the Besharam devastation the Kapoor scion suffered under another Kashyap not long ago. But the mediocrity of the subject matter (if there's any matter that testifies as subject) is as monumental as the money spent on recreating the retro look.
The plot is laughably simplistic:
A handful of scheming barons - from media, polity and police - are deciding the fate of a post-independence Mumbai which solely hinges on the discovery or disappearance of a photographic negative that has comically captured an otherwise upright minister in an uncompromising position. Kashyap's period hotch-potch is ridiculously scattered across frames: union leaders and activists sloganeering at protest gatherings, ministers and bureaucrats addressing game-changing press conferences, newspaper editors furiously typing scandals from their smoke-filled living rooms. It's left to the viewer to connect the dots which mean little in isolation. Instead, the significance of "Roaring Twenties" clip is needlessly underlined, as if to help the viewer predict the end.
When Kashyap has had enough of the half-baked 'Glitz for Blitz' real-life references, he transports Kapoor to Wasseypur territory without notice, leave alone reason, setting him ablaze in "Teri Keh Ke Lunga" mode. For some more amplified effect, warring power brokers - hard-coded capitalists and communists - are shown throwing expletives at each other in transit time - one swears 'Amercian agent' from his car window, the other retorts 'Russia ka Tattu' from his. Even The Tiranga duel between Raaj Kumar and Nana Patekar was more perceptive in comparison.
Wonder what historian and Princeton professor Gyan Prakash discreetly feels about this comical adaptation of his 'Mumbai Fables' given that he approached Kashyap with the idea of the film. We would never know of course.Hope Princeton has some idea!
Wish to know more about Mumbai's story including the reclamation politics and we have a host of insightful books at our command. Kashyap's juvenile primer hardly serves any purpose - nauseatingly interspersed with a hopeless love story, (censored) lip lock, Ranbir's hilarious facial tribute to Scarface (heavily bruised in one scene, spotlessly chocolate-faced in the very next) as also his wayward saga rooted in a boxing ring. He's easily one of the most undernourished boxers to have graced the big screen ever.
Among the few redeeming features of this retro disaster:
Karan Johar sans the coffee, simply marvelous as Kaizad Khambatta, his screen presence is reassuring if not his acting
Captivating art direction - pity it proved a lost cause
Satyadeep Mishra as Chiman - easily the most believable character blessed with a well-defined motive. The enduring pathos of his tale is the film's highlight.