Home / Bollywood / #BombayVelvet: ‘Mumbai in the 50’s and 60’s was classy’ – Anushka ‘Rosie’ Sharma

#BombayVelvet: ‘Mumbai in the 50’s and 60’s was classy’ – Anushka ‘Rosie’ Sharma

Other starlets may hog the headlines but Anushka Sharma hogs everything else as well as the occasional blockbuster headline.

The stunning 27-year-old is a successful model, a blockbuster actress, film producer, campaigner for artistic freedom and the woman with the potential to influence India’s greatest current batsman.

It’s been a particularly fruitful 12 months or so for Sharma. 

After appearing in a string of rather insipid films, her Bollywood career seems to be correcting itself. 

In the past year, she’s appeared in the critically acclaimed ‘PK’, the biggest Bollywood blockbuster of all time; produced and starred in ‘NH10’, Navdeep Singh’s outstanding revenge drama and is today gearing up for the release of one of the biggest most anticipated Bollywood films of all time: Anurag Kashyap’s ‘Bombay Velvet’.

Adapted from Gyan Prakash’s book ‘Mumbai Fables’, the film is set in 1960’s Bombay and tells the story of a street fighter named Johnny Balraj (Ranbir Kapoor) who is taken under the wings of the wealthy and unscrupulous media mogul Kaizad Khambata (Karan Johar). 

Sharma plays the role of Rosie, a sultry jazz singer who becomes Johnny’s obsession.

‘Bombay Velvet’ is, quite possibly, unlike any other Indian film you would have seen – stunningly photographed, terrifically authentic, lavishly produced, directed and acted. 

The peak of Sharma’s young career. 

The UKAsian caught up with the actress to find out more.

The UKAsian: Tell us firstly about Rosie.

Anushka Sharma:  Well, she’s a Catholic girl who grew up in Portuguese Goa in the 1950’s and escaped that life because she had a very terrible childhood where she was abused by one of her teachers.  She moves to Bombay where she’s struggling to survive and the only way she can is by singing – the only tool she has.  She’s very cynical and mistrustful of people because of the life she’s led and the men she’s had in her life.  When she meets Johnny he becomes the most important thing in her life, along with her music and she goes on to become a very, very successful singer at this club called Bombay Velvet.  Along the way there’s plenty of hurdles to overcome, lots of intrigues, twists and turns.

The UKAsian: The film is visually stunning and draws from Gyan Prakash’s book ‘Mumbai Fables’.  Did you get a chance to read it?

AS: No, I’ve not read it because Anurag was very clear.  He said that you don’t have to read any of the books because what you need to be able to crack is your character and the way your character is.  Basically, as an actor, you just need to get into the thought process, the psychology of the character.  The world she inhabits is being created for us by Anurag and his writers and the technical team – a hugely talented team.  So my job as an actor is to try and blend into that wider picture as seamlessly as possible which is particularly important when you’re doing a period film like this.  So, conversely that’s why I didn’t read the book.  Anurag crafted the character and I gave life to it.

The UKAsian: As you mentioned, the technical team have got the authenticity of the period absolutely spot-on.  A lot of research has gone into it.  What kind of research did you do of the period and what caught your attention about this so-called ‘Golden Era’ of Mumbai?

AS: I think what I really liked was the pace of that time.  Today everything is available very fast.  You can know what happens in another part of the world in just a touch on your phone.  I think we live in a time where we don’t have so much patience, there’s no breathing space, there’s no room for anything.  See, one thing that I used for my preparation for the film is, I would listen to the music from that time.  Before the soundtrack was complete, I downloaded a couple of albums of from the Mad Men soundtrack and tried to put myself in the pace of the time because it was much slower and I think that is something that is fascinating.  I wasn’t much of a jazz fan, may be been to a couple of clubs in America or Europe but I think I’ve developed a new love for it.  It fitted the pace of the time and the style.  It was a very fashionable time.  There was a certain kind of style that people had which was very classy and aspirational – whether it was the clothes, the make-up or the hair.  And it was very original.  Nowadays, you just copy a trend. 

The UKAsian: It’s a lavishly produced, very expensive film.  As you are now also a film producer, how does that expense weigh on the cast and the crew?  Particularly when it’s not the typical masala Bollywood film. 

AS: Well, as far as we’re concerned, we’ve obviously made a film for the widest possible audience and I think it is a film for the masses.  The budget of the film is justified because for a film like this, it’s important to be as authentic as possible.  In fact, if it was not produced the way it was, it would have turned out to be even more expensive.  It’s been capped within a good budget for the world that has been created and the effort that has been put into making the film.  When you watch the film, you’ll understand that.  It’s all about giving people a real feel of a different time.  I don’t think any Indian film has depicted a particular period of our country’s history this authentically.  As far as audience is concerned – according to me, the film is for a wide audience but that’s something we’d never know.  We’ll never know who’s going to like the film and who’s not going to like the film.  You can do that with a typical formulaic film but having said that, nowadays there are a lot of formulaic films that don’t quite work either.  Being a producer, now I know that you never really know what works.  You’ve just got to do films that you believe in.  I think Anurag believes in the film that he’s made; the people who put the money in have believed in it, the actors have believed in it.  So, I think ultimately you just have to let it go.  You’ve developed it and now we’ll see what happens when the film releases. 

The UKAsian: It’s Anurag’s first foray into ‘mainstream’ cinema.  What kind of sensibilities does he bring to the set? 

AS: Anurag is a fantastic filmmaker.  I think he has a different way in which he looks at things, which comes across in his movies.  The more varied the perception of a director, the better films that he makes.  He doesn’t get fazed by anything.  Nothing deters him.  He can keep control of a situation even if there’s complete pandemonium and when you make a big film like this that kind of pandemonium is inevitable.  Most of all, I think his understanding of relationships between people – whatever the relationship might be is very unique and very real and new in Indian cinema.  Real, but it’s not been shown before, so it becomes new. 




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