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Wednesday, 6 January 2016

For Your Consideration: Bombay Velvet [2015]

HIndie Awards 2016

For Your Consideration: Bombay Velvet [2015]

Everyone knows the eventual fate of Anurag Kashyap's Bombay Velvet. It was at time justifiably and at time unjustifiably lambasted but overall it is both a disappointment to many as well as a huge box office disaster.

Despite the reviews, Bombay Velvet isn't a bad film; yes it has its flaws and those too that cannot be discounted, but the film isn't that bad and in terms of technical and artistic qualities; it is a marvel.

I am not going to try and thoroughly justify why Bombay Velvet deserves to compete [that will occur depending on its nominations], however each section will try and justify the need for campaigning for this film in the slightest.

Also, while Bombay Velvet at its heart is very much about a romantic relationship in the midst of a rapidly growing city; the film itself will be competing in the dramatic category due to its other topics of Bombay's birth and evolution as well as the period crime drama at time taking precedence especially during the pre-release hype of the feature.

So let us just get to it, this one is actually a long one...

Best Picture [Drama]: Vikas Bahl and Vikramaditya Motwane for Bombay Velvet [Fox STAR Studios]

Fox STAR Studios hasn't had the best of years; with it banking on at least five films out of which none have impressed at the box office nor critically.

Its strongest was of course the phantom double bonanza of Shandaar and Bombay Velvet.

[While we will get to Shandaar later]

Bombay Velvet is a period crime drama that details the birth of the Bombay [Mumbai] as we know it; the capital of India's corporate and entertainment industry. The film revolves around low life boxer Johnny Balraj [Ranbir Kapoor] and his ascent amongst the elite as the owner of the Bombay Velvet club under Kaizad Khambatta [Karan Johar] in order to become a 'Big Shot' which leads him into the path of club singer Rosie Norohna [Anushka Sharma] and how their love story intertwines with their dreams and the cities rapid growth.

While it has been deemed style over substance, Bombay Velvet's style is too hard to ignore. A blistering homage to gangsters films of the 20's and 30's as well as Martin Scorsese and the lot; it is in that vein a very similar story of a young hungry upstart from the bottom fighting his way to the top in a tale of seductive romance, sketchy characters and questionable moralities.

However is it all a montage of this or does the film feature a depth untold, that has been the arguments of the hordes of critics against and the small sect of critics for this film.

Anurag Kashyap's latest also features the backlash of the idea of a notorious indie director finally breaking into the mainstream and big budget, but by shunning his former roots or being to experimental in a conventional big budget set up?

Bombay Velvet has a tough grueling road ahead of it, especially now that it has been set in the dramatic category. One would question if the Romantic/Comedy side would have been an easier claim especially considering the weak year in hand.

Best Director: Anurag Kashyap

While the film itself has a difficult task to be nominated, the whole flavor and texture of the film screams a mammoth effort undertaken by director Anurag Kashyap.

Yet Kashyap's faults lie in his failures to straddle the huge budget as well as his over indulgence and finally the nail in the coffin might be the mixed story that squanders the editing talents of Thelma Schoonmaker [a frequent Scorsese collaborator].

Still many aspects of the film are wonders to behold and the fact that Kashyap gets competent performances out of most of his cast specifically having Ranbir Kapoor convincingly play against type and even prove that although not superb but at least Karan Johar can give a convincing performance.

There's also no denying that no matter the reception, Kashyap has made the kind of film that he wanted to despite the commercial pressures involved with the budget.

He is of course a former three time nominee with one win for Dev D, and since the inception of the awards has never missed out on a directorial nomination for his films.

Best Screenplay [Drama]: Vasan Bala, Gyan Prakash, S. Thanikachalam and Anurag Kashyap 

Too many cooks in the kitchen?

With a very different story at its take for mainstream Hindi cinema, but one that is cliched in template in terms of Hollywood gangster dramas. One begs to question whether the treatment let down the script or the other way, as Kashyap is none to take standard done before plots and subvert them.

Yet here the plot remains eerily too familiar. You have the romantic story at its core and add in the use of Gyan Prakash and his novel 'Mumbai Fables' to recreate the idea of a growing Mumbai and the political angle that builds in the background regarding this.

It creates too many threads with neither piece getting enough room to breathe.

The screenplay nod honestly seems like a long shot and one that is undeserving.

[Sorry for being biased, but it had to be mentioned somewhere]

Best Cinematography: Rajeev Ravi

Always a Kashyap staple, Rajeev Ravi missed out on the directors last film [Ugly] and hence with it a cinematography nod, but the duo are back together.

We are told that a director and a cinematographers partnership is like a marriage, then this one is a successful one; with Ravi getting a win side by side with Kashyap for Dev D.

Their latest yields positive results capturing the era gone by in a nostalgic golden tinge like the sepia photographs of old. Much of the lighting stakes itself in the mood, characters but most importantly opulence of the film and era.

One really feels the striking genre of the film in the framing.

Rajeev Ravi is the shoulder from which Anurag Kashyap can launch for a directorial and if not a film nomination campaign, and with this work Ravi is a huge front runner.

Best Editing: Prema Saigal and Thelma Schoonmaker

A lot hype was built over Martin Scorsese's regular editor Thelma Schoonmaker, taking a crack at Anurag Kashyap's Bombay Velvet.

While the hoot was that she would be bringing her distinct signature to a film paying homage to Scorsese's style of cinema, with the blessings of Martin Scorsese himself. Yet some would say it was to salvage a film on the tatters.

It's hard to deny that while Schoonmaker does bring her signature to the film, she is let down by a script that cannot convincingly portray the plot elements to its characters. One of the biggest complaints against the film is that the romance feels false despite the efforts of the music and actors to make you feel otherwise.

An editing nomination [or in this case a win] is a strong indication of a directors strength in his category and while Thelma is definitely a top notch editor and a three time Oscar winner, this one is a tough bet thanks to the other elements causing chaos and hard to discern the true merits of her work.

Best Actor [Male] in A Leading Role [Drama]: Ranbir Kapoor as Johnny Balraj

Don't let the whole hype of what is happening to Ranbir Kapoor's career kill you.

The actor has never been a particularly big box office draw, yet with the advent of younger stars making the moolah and that so called 100 crore club getting to much unwarranted traction, Kapoor has faced the heavy brunt.

Sure he has made some huge mistakes; Besharam and Roy, but one must never forget that despite the numbers any film makes; Kapoor has always gone for the unconventional, that so for an already made superstar. 

His roles have never adhered to his stardom, rather to the need for succeeding as an actor. This year two such performances on the two different spectrums have given him that opportunity.

In Bombay Velvet, there's a lot of film references and performances that Kapoor channels into making his own.

It's a tough category, one that Kapoor did conquer with his career best in Rockstar, however with the pitfalls of the film and the at time derided chemistry between him and Anushka Sharma [which I blame on the writing] can he really secure the nomination?

Not to of course mention that his performance in Tamasha, despite in a different category may overshadow everything else the Kapoor scion has faced this year.

Best Actor [Female] in A Leading Role [Drama]: Anushka Sharma as Rosie Noronha

Already having been overshadowed by Raveen Tandon's dazzling cameo performance in the songs of Bombay Velvet, it is hard to consider if Anushka can really clinch this one. There is no critical backing.

Though on re-watch one can tell that Sharma despite her form in the singing portions, is game everywhere else especially when it comes to trying really hard to spark chemistry of a lifeless romance.

Not only that but 'Dhadam Dhadam' the centerpiece of her performance is majestic simply by her expressions that relay an anguish and pain that convinces one of the intense romance Rosie and Johnny share, that we never see.

While the pool of contenders is low, the new ruling of 'No two performances from the same actor in the same genre category, will be considered for nomination' does present a major problem.

Sharma who shone this year, being the youngest producer in Hindi cinema for her starring vehicle 'NH10'; will want to secure a nomination there, yet another campaign for this performance brews.

Which one is the stronger suit, is already dictated by the critics but there is still a consideration to be made.

Best Actor [Male] in A Supporting Role [Drama]: Karan Johar as Kaizad Khambatta

It comes as a shocker that Bombay Velvet's only supporting campaign is for the debut of Karan Johar. This is likely as a result for a push for the director to gain the Breakthrough Award, as no one can see him securing the nomination in possibly the most stacked category [as usual].

It's not that Johar doesn't give a worthy performance, he is aptly cast in this role and shines in two key scenes. At the end of the day however, due to the character; one finds it sadly difficult to divide Karan Johar the actor from the personality. Karan Johar is the best choice for the part, he is the perfect fit; but maybe just too perfect.

It doesn't help that the script never builds his villain to become a threatening force, despite having the audience feel a sense of threat in the finale.

Johar has a tough ask in getting the nomination, especially when lesser actors from the film are waiting in the wings for an independent push.

Best Ensemble

Though individual actors beyond the three leads are forgotten, the ensemble nod means that their chances for individual nominations are enhanced. Still an ensemble nod would equally do them good and encapsulate also the finer lead turns, if they do not secure individual nominations due to competition.

Kay Kay Menon, Manish Chouadary and Vivaan Shah sparkle a few times here and there but the big breakthroughs this section provides is for Raveena Tandon's scintillating turn in the musical numbers as well as Satyadeep Mishra who casually steals the show.

The ensemble in question could be a huge nod for the film, and elevate its heartbroken status at the least.

Best Production and Costume Design: Sonal Sawant and Errol Kelly/Niharika Khan

A period film is defined by its production design and the costumes, set and etc. that accompany it.

Though questions can fall as to whether the factual detail has been kept in mind when regarding the era of the film. A lot of hoopla was made about the use of Tommy guns, which were never a factor in that era of Mumbai.

Yet Bombay Velvet makes itself a style spectacle by the factor of its scale being mounted on some lavish designs. The Bombay Velvet club in the film is a marvel to behold, as a set of grandeur that reflects the era and class difference as well as the Jazz mood of the film.

There is only one winner in both sections and no nominees and Bombay Velvet, though facing some stiff period film competition this year [a surprise that we have three such films in one Hindi film calendar year]; it can be a make or break guarantee for the film to win at least one award while also probably boosting directorial chances.

Best VFX

Recreating the era of Bombay especially in exteriors is a tough task alone for the art team, as such the vfx team pulls in a lot of effort in making sure that the film adheres to a strict historical accuracy while also fitting in seamlessly.

A lot of films are starting to use vfx and that too heavily, with Bombay Velvet; the film got delayed so as the vfx work would do just the above.

Best Original Score

Very much like its music, the score of Bombay Velvet has tinges of jazz to it while also playing strikingly similar to the kind of films it is paying homage to.

Amit Trivedi's soundtrack helps elevate his score and vice versa and the dual nominations are the only way it can secure a nod. The main theme itself is a wonder to cherish, but the special comes during what is aptly labeled 'Tommy Gun' as the finale shootout occurs in spectacular fashion.

With the music creating a rage, this one will be a definite pick up.

Best Original Song: Bombay Velvet-The Complete Soundtrack

While the poster only mentions three songs, Fox STAR after an overwhelming response to the Jazz induced soundtrack has decided to campaign for a complete overhaul. Five songs and five spots for Bombay Velvet is what the film is hitting for.

Though there are eight original songs in the film;

"Aam Hindustani" by Shefali Alvares, "Mohabbat Bhuri Bimari Version 2" by Neeti Mohan, "Kha Kha Ga" by Neeti Mohan, "Dhadam Dhadam" by Neeti Mohan, "Naak Pe Gussa" by Neeti Mohan, "Sylvia" by Neeti Mohan, "Darbaan" by Papon and "Behroopia" by Mohit Chauhan and Neeti Mohan

With all the songs in contention, it can either become a big win or a complete disaster if it is hard to discern which one is the real standout.

This is especially as the soundtrack gains both a great consistency and scary similarity as the trifecta of Amitabh Bhattacharya, Neeti Mohan and Amit Trivedi head most of the songs.

So there it is; Best Picture [Drama], Best Director, Best Screenplay [Drama], Best Actor in A Leading Role Male [Drama], Best Actor in A Supporting Role Female [Drama], Best Actor in a Supporting Role Male [Drama], Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Original Score, Best Original Song[s], Best Ensemble, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design and Best VFX

So despite the critical backlash, Fox STAR Studios [due to its thin and reviled roster of films this year] has decided to heavily bank on Bombay Velvet, which is likely to be a strong contender in nods for the music and technical categories.

'Nuff Said

Aneesh Raikundalia

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