Film Review: Bombay Velvet


By Eder Guzman

There are a number of films coming out of India that have been well regarded, winning awards all over the world. The movies are not just in Hindi, English or Tamil, but in many other languages, showing a greater diversity in style and culture. The movies have been gaining recognition in India as well, and being seen by Indians in India. These films have yet to develop an audience, yet there are the outliers, such as the movie “Court”, which was part of the 88th academy awards. It goes to show that Indian films have indeed gained recognition in the western world. In order to reflect the diversity of queens, with the large Indian population, the Museum of Moving Images in Astoria, Queens held the Indian Movie Festival. The movie “Bombay Velvet” are showing the high profile and high budget movies of India are trying to match Hollywood standards.

This movie has Thelma Schoonmaker as its editor, well known as editor of all of Scorsese’s movies. The movie takes place in Bombay, during the 1920’s in the jazz era. There are a lot of bars where smoke and drinks flow. There is a lot of black and white videos of India and the influence of the west is prevalent, with their dress and jazz being popular. There are many bars where smokers smoke and liquor flows, regardless of the national ban on alcohol. There is a Montage of black and white videos of India, and the influence of the west is prevalent, with flapper dresses and jazz music being popular. There is Louis Armstrong playing in the background, and a burlesque show performing on stage. We flash forward, to 2 years after the partition of India. There is a woman, with a small boy who arrives to Bombay by boat, and is seeking work. The whites are leaving, and they are stared in amazement by Indians, telling them to get the fuck out of India. The boy who arrived with his mom watches as the boy pickpockets the Englishmen, and he asks if he could tag along. The mother finds work at a brothel, and stays there for years. Meanwhile, there is a shot of occupied Goa, where there is a girl with a beautiful voice singing at a church. A man congratulates the mother, and offers to make the girl a renowned singer and performer (using violence). Eventually in the future she and he are in an abusive relationship, and she kills him and flees. The boys are now grown-ups, and get involved with a British man who sneaks in gold and illegal items in the harbor, yet eventually gets caught. Balraj escapes and hands the gold to his mother, while the pickpocket friend Chimman ends up in jail. Balraj soon encounters the singer, and she seems interested in him as well as he brutally attacks a very forward fan. He decides to go after her, and he imagines her and him driving in an expensive car, so he decides to steal the money by going to the bank and sticking up someone making a withdrawal. The man who is robed figures out he doesn’t have a gun, and instead offers him a job, making him the host of the best club in India, the Bombay velvet. Rosie, the girl, is now working for Jimmy Mistri, a media reporter, who tells her to enlist in the Bombay velvet as a singer. All the trouble the Balraj got himself involved with made him murder various obstacles without thinking anything of it. He and Rosie get used to the life of crime, committing them more and more, along acts of treason and violence in order to keep their privileged and fortunate lifestyle. They eventually choose to blackmail the mayor by catching him with another woman. Though Balraj gets over his head, by demanding a building, and a plot of land from the illegal land deal that will be made due to the mayor’s absence. His chief financier gets a group of thugs to hunt him down and kill him, yet Balraj is warned by Chimman, who is gunned down. Balraj continues fighting. He eventually kills his former boss, who had kidnapped and shot Rosie in order to lure him out. The oversentimentality and gimmickiest lines are used in order to solidify and sanatize their relationship and they slowly die in each other’s arms when Balraj is shot.

Though the movie is shot beautifully, with great effort to show the majesty of the Bombay velvet, the writing and attentiveness to detail fail to deliver what could have been a great Indian epic.

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