Let me paint a picture for you— a small town boy wants to make it big in the city, strikes gold at the stock market, undergoes a character transformation and sells his conscience for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but finds redemption in the end. Add a couple of Bollywood song montages, replace Gordon Gekko of Wall Street film series (Michael Douglas) with a Gujju ‘jiske khoon mein laalach hain’, subtract half the brilliance and suspense, and you have Baazaar in a nutshell.
The (rather predictable) plot follows the tale of Rizwan Ahmed (Rohan Mehra), a stock broker at Buddha & Buddha in Allahabad (Oops... Prayagraj). Discontent with his life and his dutifully dissenting father, his sister impulsively books him a flight to Mumbai (a scene that could have been a Paytm advertisement, no questions asked). And thus, his story begins. He relentlessly pursues his ultimate goal of working with his role model—corporate shark Shakun Kothari (Saif Ali Khan)—who, for Rohan, represents the definitive rags-to-riches story.
The film has its flashes of brilliance, no doubt. For instance, when Rizwan rejects the handshake and goes straight for the hug (not as awkward as it sounds, I promise), or when Shakun Kothari pulls off a major takeover while a religious ceremony plays out behind him, or when Shakun Kothari’s suave exterior cracks on being called a fraud. However, the solid first half took too long to bring the two leads together, leading to a rather rushed second half that fails to deliver on its attempted twists. There were several avenues that the director could have explored, like the SEBI’s intense mission to crack down on insider trading (led by a severely underutilised Manish Chaudhary), or the double standards of those who accuse others of fraud. Director Gauravv Chawla, instead, decided to focus on the ‘emotion’ and not the ‘math’, leading to wasted opportunities.
For those hesitating to watch Baazaar because they don’t know enough about stock markets and trading—do not fear. John Stewart Eduri’s background music always tells you exactly what to feel in every scene. The film’s soundtrack is reasonably okay when looking at it objectively, but its placement in the film somehow seems mistimed and rather contrived. An example is when Yo Yo Honey Singh number Billionaire jarringly interrupts the sombre mood that previous scenes worked hard to build up.
A charmingly dimpled Rohan Mehra tries his best with a passably generic character, but is nothing to write home about. Chitrangda Singh has a subdued role, but manages to maintain the same expression throughout the film, even during the eventful climax. The meme-ably omnipresent Radhika Apte continues her series of good performances, providing the occasional gratuitous body shot and playing Rizwan’s unscrupulous colleague with more sophistication than the limited script provides.
As mentioned before, however, Saif is the star of the show, pulling off the unprincipled, hard-bitten character of Shakun Kothari effortlessly. Not surprising, considering the star’s previous comments on how he was happier doing Baazaar than Hum Tum or Salaam Namaste.
Considering Bollywood’s lack of major films about the stock market, Gauravv Chawla could easily have created a niche for himself and the genre. Instead, he chose to give us a predictable mashup of elements from classics like The Wolf of Wall Street, The Big Short, and Wall Street.
The verdict? Baazaar fails to reach ‘must watch’ status, and can easily be pushed to the list of films you watch on a rainy day when there’s nothing else available. And, watch it for Saif. Voh chhokra bomb chhe.
Director: Gauravv K. Chawla
Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Rohan Mehra, Radhika Apte, Chitrangda Singh, Manish Chaudhary, Denzil Smith