Review Hindi

Baazaar review: Saif Ali Khan's snarling stockbroker drives this parable on greed

Cinestaan Rating

Release Date: 26 Oct 2018 / Rated: U/A / 02hr 17min

Shriram Iyengar

Gauravv Chawla's film sparkles in bits, but has a predictable finish. 

Baazaar, ironically, opens at a religious convention where Saif Ali Khan's ruthless Shakun Kothari manipulates a hostile takeover of his mentor's company. He leaves the old man with no stocks, pride, or even respect. 'Micchami Dukkadam [a religious saying that asks for forgiveness],' he sneers sarcastically.

That is the parable of Gauravv Chawla's film. It is the story of a ruthless mercenary investor who does not take prisoners. Kothari is a man who learnt the trade from being an 'angadiya' to an investor. The world, he finds, has not changed much even in the rarefied atmosphere of Fortune 500 companies, and so he does not have any qualms about the means to his end. He dreams big, and bets bigger. Considering the way he goes about threatening CEOs, one would wonder why SEBI did not have a tap on his phone.

One of Kothari's big bets is on an up and coming broker, Rizwan Ahmed (Rohan Mehra), whose Allahabad upbringing has filled him with dreams of becoming a billionaire in Mumbai. He wants the good stuff but is surprisingly naive about the price of this greed. It is through his eyes that we unravel the nature and character of the stock market in Mumbai.

While the makers have denied it, Baazaar does have a major Wall Street (1987) hangover. Although, it is inherently Indian in its taste and treatment. This is a proper 'masala' film that simplifies the maths (pronounced max) of the stock market for the lay user. Nothing establishes the commercial aspect of the film more than its sponsors, who manage to get more screen time than some characters of the story. Just as Rizwan Ahmed is contemplating his departure to Mumbai, we see his sister pipe up with the idea, "It is simple. Just Paytm". Soon, we are hurried through some very overt branding of Motilal Oswal, Rustomjee, Blackberrys, and even an Oppo phone brand swaggering from behind Rohan Mehra's character in the first half.

The cinematography by Swapnil Sonawane is imbued in golden and red hues that exemplify the seduction of Rizwan into the hedonistic world of money, and make it worth watching.

The first half of the film is about as generic as they come. However, it is made entertaining through some sharp dialogues, and their delivery by Saif Ali Khan. Aseem Arora's dialogues bring wit and malice to Khan's character, even in his hindered Gujarati. The actor has been in a fine vein of form, and chews the scenery with his performance as the ruthless, no-emotion shark who hunts 'top 25 companies' every day for a living.

While the actor looks more comfortable in Hindi, than the forced accented Gujarati that he puts on, he manages to make an impact as the vegetarian wolf of Dalal Street.

Rizwan Ahmed is the Allahabadi (or should we say Prayagraji?) Bud Fox to Kothari's Gujarati Gordon Gekko. The only problem is that the film belongs to Gekko, it always will. That is where the skewed perspective of Chawla's film proves a mistake. The director, like his protagonist, invests in the wrong share.

The tale of the mentor betraying his student, only to find the tables turned, in the end, is as old as time itself. Films like Shikhar (2005) and Guru (2007) have already ventured into this space. Baazaar does not offer an upgrade on it, except in terms of style.

Of course, in view of the necessary female representation, the film portrays Radhika Apte as the ambitious and manipulative Priya Rai, who dresses more fashionably than many executives in banks. Her sense of fashion and smoking are expected to be a symbol of her independence.

Chitrangda Singh is on the other side of the divide as the wife of Shakun Kothari, tired of his ways. Both female leads have a key role to play in the twist to the story, but it is predictable.

Baazaar is a simplistic film, stylised to get the message of corruption within the power brokers in India out to the layman. In that, it may succeed. The film also manages to score some points with its hint at a telecom scam worth thousands of crores - dare we say it is manipulated by a Gujarati businessman close to the ruling government? - but it fails to delve into specifics. That is where the magic lies.

Chawla's film is certainly entertaining, and not preachy. But, like all tales about power, the film panders to a very familiar story and veers towards a predictable ending. That is where the stock plateaus. 

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