The kemcho-filled finance thriller exposes corruption and political rigging in Mumbai’s Dalal Street.
The Indian stock market has rarely been fodder for Bollywood. But this week, it makes an attempt with Gauravv K. Chawla-directed Baazaar. The Saif Ali Khan-starrer finance thriller tries to show some grizzly insider trading and the ensuing corruption deals among industrialists and politicians that are brokered between and after the market bell rings. The movie tries to cover all corners but without much conviction.
Baazaar takes off with an ambitious and a too-intelligent-to-be-in-Allahabad stock broker Rizwan Ahmed, played by debutant Rohan Mehra, son of late actor Vinod Mehra. Tired of the small investments in the city, and after a squabble with his father, Rizwan decides to ditch his home and bet on the city of dreams, Mumbai.
Rizwan now reaches the big city with his small town degree from Allahabad University. This fact is rubbed on us every time he tries to get an interview with the big league players of Dalal Street, so much so that Rizwan feels like a brand ambassador of the university. Despite the struggles and obstructions to reach the big bosses, he assures us that he is not in Mumbai to struggle but settle. His hope of settlement, however, is pinned on one businessman, Shakun Kothari.
Shakun played by Saif Ali Khan is a far cry from the yellow feather shrug-wearing, vulnerable Vineet in Kaalakaandi, his last film. Shakun is calm, collected and wickedly mathematical with every decision. He loves money, is member of a peace loving cult, cheats on his wife with permission and speaks in Gujarati in instalments.
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He has built his empire on his wife’s (Chitrangada Singh) inherited wealth and justifies being a fraud by calling it his ‘dhandha’. His character has all the ingredients of a steely businessman but Saif fails to blend the spices. He neither comes across as funny nor scary and neither convincing. You can give up any hope of seeing a credible Indian version of The Wolf of Wall Street.
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The film does little justice to the women, starting with Radhika Apte’s Priya Rai. A stockbroker herself, she oscillates between being ethical and trading information or what she calls ‘line cross karna’. And at times, she is the line herself as is revealed later. Chitrangada is a silent spectator of her husband’s underhand techniques to make his hostile takeovers a success.
Director Gauravv K. Chawla never fleshes out the characters entirely. He even breaks the fourth wall by making his key characters share their second guesses by looking at the camera, but the overuse of this with no strong dialogue means it falls flat.
However, editing by Arjun Srivastava and Maahir Zaveri deserves special mention. They use rapid flashback cuts for transition, although the viewer may find this a bit jarring in the first few minutes of the movie.
The songs are tedious and just don’t add anything to the narrative. Every time Rizwan reaches a new career high, his success is celebrated with party songs that feature rave nights at pubs and steamy make out scenes. This is repeated all through the four songs in the movie.
Baazaar falls primarily because it doesn’t have a tight, smart screenplay. It tries to make up for it by showing the shiny, glitzy life of Marine Drive resident stockbrokers. There is a dash of morality sprinkled here and there with lines like ‘know your roots to go further’.
It fails to capture the ruthlessness and breathlessness of a stockbroker, but does manage to show corruption, political rigging for tenders and media manipulation in a refreshing manner.
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