If you are an Anurag Kashyap admirer (the reasoning fan, not the fanatic), shemozzle, a confused mess, and not velvet is what would keep creeping back into your mind. Bombay Velvet is the story of a very young man who is shown as a very calm boy that manages to get extremely angry as he grows up. A masochist cage-fighter who usually loves getting beaten up just for the heck of it, and thrashes his opponent when he has the mood for it, Johnny Balraj (Ranbir Kapoor) is a very trouble soul. Inspired from a movie he watches, he wants to die as a "Big Shot", a man with name and fame, a man with no apparent principles, a man who is so short-tempered he wouldn't think twice about putting a pistol to the forehead of his best friend or lover.
He is in love with Rosie (Anushka Sharma), passionate but not completely reasoned. Rosie was sexually and physically abused as a child leaving her with an innocent but unspoken plea in her eyes. While Anushka does her best to portray that haunted emotion while blending it with the oomph of a jazz singer in the late 60s and early 70s, it doesn't quite come through. Used by her men until she reaches Balraj, she is conflicted between purpose and emotion lost in the swirling tides of Balraj's mercurial emotions. Yet, a few minutes of Raveena Tandon, doing the same jazz singler routine in the movie demonstrates how it is done, as Raveena brings home the jazz singer like a boss unlike Anushka who rarely ever stirs anything in your head or heart like quality jazz singers generally do; it is not just voice or the music itself but the 'performance' of the jazz artist. Anushka just looks like a deer on skates.
The movie has two notable roles, Kay Kay Menon playing the honest and smart cop pursuing the 'big shots' and Kaizad Khambatta (Karan Johar). Khambatta exploits Balraj's anger and ambition until the latter realises it and asks for a bigger share than just crumbs. Khambatta was supposed to be cold, chilly. For Khambatta, a journalist who pockets the mayor and owns and runs the biggest 'wealthy people club' in the newly-burgeoning city, even a wife is disposable. He uses her to get important people in compromising positions. Karan Johar has a fresh appeal but he rarely makes the final jump that turns an innocent face into an icy-cold visage capable of giving you the chills.
Ranbir Kapoor as Balraj is brilliant, as always. His hairstyle and demeanour is inspired from De Niro's portrayal of the Taxi Driver. He is maniacal in some scenes and he brings it alive. Ranbir is probably the only actor who could play an innocent lover and a cold blooded, narcissistic, murderer if he wants to. Yet, he is let down by patchy writing, even though the movie is inspired apparently, from Mumbai Fables by Gyan Prakash, one of the four writers of the screenplay. The dialogues aren't insighful as is the norm in Kashyap's movies. There are very few humorous moments in the movie, considering how Kashyap can squeeze humour even out of a dark movie like Ugly. Most importantly, the cat and mouse race, the rags to riches and back to the dust story, doesn't really do a neat circle, the loose threads aplenty and sometimes unnecessary. With all those dangling lose threads, it is a shame the movie doesn't give you the satisfaction of a pleasing ending either. The music by Amit Trivedi doesn't have the texture or the appeal that he brings into his music. Even though the settings and cinematography reproduce that old Bombay, you could clearly witness the lack of finesse.