Films can be subtle or non-subtle. The former trusts the viewer to fill in the blanks without much assistance. The latter makes sure it doesn’t let go of your hand until it is over. If done right, both of them could spawn surprising results. A good director knows how much to reveal and where to conceal information from the audience. Most importantly, they would immerse themselves in a particular treatment instead of treading the surface. Kookie Gulati takes the non-subtle approach for The Big Bull and just touches upon the crowd-pleasing aspects. The result is a scrambled mess that will surely not please the crowd.
The Big Bull, for instance, creates a mass hero out of Hemant Shah (Abhishek Bachchan). He is shown as a messiah of the middle-class, who, in turn, hero-worship him. He talks and walks and sits like a typical masala movie hero, i.e., with a devil-may-care attitude. A mass hero, obviously, exists in a masala movie template. Hence, The Big Bull throws a beautiful girl (Nikita Dutta as Priya), a sentimental mother (Supriya Pathak), and a younger brother (a miscast and annoying Sohum Shah as Viren) at him. If The Big Bull had been a full-blown masala movie, it would have squeezed every drop out of these side characters, to make the main hero both human and godlike. Unfortunately, they are reduced to inconsequential puppets who come and go.
Take Priya, who, at a party, notices how greed is pushing Hemant toward arrogance. If this were a better film, it would have built on this to introduce a scene where she would try to intervene by referring to “the man” she had initially fallen in love with. Instead, she is there so that the film can insert a romantic song. Then there is Hemant’s mother, who fears her son will not stop repeating his success strategy. If this were a better film, it would have done more to flesh out the relationship between this mother-son duo instead of throwing in occasional introspective lines. As for Viren, Hemant pushes him to take risks. Again, if it were a better film, this exertion of force could have been translated as an attempt by an older brother to toughen his younger brother. But Viren is reduced to a mouthpiece asking Hemant’s motives so that the film can deliver expositions.
The Big Bull alters the “show, don’t tell” technique of writing by replacing it with “only tell”. The sole reason you come to know that Hemant has turned rich or that he has taken the title of ‘the big bull’ is not due to the fact that the film shows these events but because it incessantly tells you about it. The people inside local trains and on news channels keep commenting on the recent developments. As if that is not enough, a news reporter named Meera Rao (Ileana D’Cruz), the narrator of this film, turns up to repeat the same information. The root of the problem lies in the heavy underlining of things. Sample this: we are told that “people would buy shares when Hemant raised his hands”. In the same scene, he is surrounded by his fans, looking in awe and smiling at him. All this is enough to show that Hemant has turned into a hero. But as the film has a habit of pointing out the obvious, we get an interview hosted by Meera where the spectators spell out the very same thing for the slow-runners on the other side of the screen. It is ironic, considering the protagonist cannot bring himself to a slow pace. “Mujhe dheere chalne aata nahi hai, Viren,” he says.
Although one can understand the restless nature of Hemant (he prefers to keep himself busy), that doesn’t necessarily mean you should tangle the film with jumbled editing. The opening scenes go back and forth in timeline and tone, creating a convoluted mess. There is a scene in a courtroom where the passage of time is indicated through texts. Look closely at the shots displaying “Day 20” and “Day 35,” and you will find no difference between them, leaving me to conclude that this particular session lasted continuously for 15 days. Wow. It is one of the many moments that show the laziness of the filmmakers. They are as distant from the material as Meera is from her mic in another scene. Both make you wonder why they even bothered taking it in their hands. Bachchan is watchable in the early scenes where he leans toward opportunity. He listens intently and with a lot of curiosity to a man talking about getting a “lottery”. But as the film progresses and his character becomes rich, his performance turns into a caricature. Occasionally, he will laugh like a maniac as if auditioning for the Hindi remake of Joker or the role of a deranged, psycho killer. He plays with his fingers as if a song is being played in his mind. But that song and this story get lost in the film’s lethargic noise.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.