Working class boxer Balraj (Ranbir Kapoor) is desperate to become a big shot in 1960s Bombay. So he jumps at the chance to work for camp gangster Kaizad (Karan Johar), who takes him under his wing, renames him ‘Johnny’ and installs him as the manager of elite nightclub ‘Bombay Velvet’. Johnny falls for Rosie (Anushka Sharma), the club's resident songstress who may not be all that she seems. Johnny spirals deeper and deeper into the criminal underworld with the police hot on his heels.
Director Anurag Kashyap, best known for his gritty socio-political thrillers (‘’Black Friday’, ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’) aims to chart the rapid development of the seven islands, which became India’s ‘maximum city’ via mass reclamations from the sea. Dubious land acquisitions, the forced closure of massive cotton mills and a severe clamp down on trade union activism achieved this rapid urban development.
Alas, this story of the creation of the modern day metropolis now known as Mumbai suffers from an obsession with style with little emotional depth invested in its unsympathetic characters. The period detail, filmed in sepia tinted shades, is flawless and successfully recreates a Bombay where trams roamed the streets, prohibition was enforced and people were driven by poverty and desperation. Amit Tridevi’s jazz infused songs are used in snippets with the exception of one emotionally charged number, ‘This Insufferable Pain’, which takes center-stage and captures the inner turmoil of the flawed characters' lives. It is the only honest spark in this lengthy, violent and emotionally shallow but brilliantly stylish bolly-noir.