This Friday, Anurag Kashyap’s biggest and most ambitious film, Bombay Velvet, hits the screen. The film, an ode to Bombay of the 1950s and 1960s, stars Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma and Karan Johar, along with Kay Kay Menon, Manish Choudhary, Vivaan Shah and Siddharth Basu.
Kashyap confesses that Bombay Velvet is his big wet dream. The first of an intended trilogy, Kashyap says he got inspired after reading James Ellory’s LA Quartet, a series of four crime novels set in Log Angeles of the 1940s and 50s – The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, LA Confidential and White Jazz. Digging into Bombay’s crime history, I found a treasure trove that was unending, he adds.
The city itself being the central character, one of the biggest challenges was creating the Bombay by gone years. Bombay Velvet, said to be based on Gyan Prakash’s book, Mumbai Fables, has been shot extensively in Sri Lanka, doubling up for Bombay. Kashyap says he preferred filming there to actual locations in Mumbai because of the unconditional support offered by their government, the easy availability of vintage car models, and most importantly, the likeness of its architecture. But even as the period is supposedly the 1960s, looking at the promos so far one can’t help but feel the atmosphere is more like the Hollywood Gangster films of the 1930s. You can sense the ode given to films like Howard Hawks’ Scarface (1932) and Raoul Walsh’s The Roaring Twenties (1939).
Ranbir Kapoor plays a street fighter and an aggressive go-getter, who wants to be a big shot. While revealing that Kashyap first approached Anushka Sharma before signing him, he says the character of Johnny Balraj was someone he could identify with. Sharma, however, felt playing crooner Rosie Noronha was a huge challenge for her as the character is lightyears away from her personality. According to Kashyap, the two complement each other beautifully. “Johnny and Rosie’s romance is very innocent and child-like. They are obsessed, protective and passionately possessive about each other. In a way, they create an island for themselves despite being in the middle of a world full of crime, corruption and deceit.” And then of course, there is the casting of Karan Johar as the villain of the film, Kaizad Kambhata.
Bombay Velvet has an extremely strong technical team with Rajeev Ravi behind the camera, Scorsese regular Thelma Schoonmaker and Prerna Saigal editing the film, Sonal Sawant and Error Kelly in charge of the Production Design, Niharika Bhasin designing the costumes and Amit Trivedi and Mikey McCleary scoring its music.
Will Bombay Velvet be Hindi cinema’s answer to Once Upon a Time in America? Come May 15th and we’ll know for sure!