Director: Gauravv K. Chawla
Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Radhika Apte, Rohan Mehra, Chitrangada Singh
It's uncanny how often Hindi film directors believe that the best way to depict dishonest characters inhabiting a dishonest environment is by making a dishonest movie. Take the scene where a small-town boy has big-city dreams. His orthodox father slaps him, presumably for wearing a 'Being Human' t-shirt. When he asks his sister how he will ever move to Bombay, she earnestly whips out her phone and displays a giant app: "by using Paytm, of course!" Within minutes, we see an airline name, a Blackberry (aren't they extinct?) cellphone, Rustomjee builders and Motilal Oswal integrated into the Madhur-Bhandarkar-meets-Wall-Street world of ambitious Rizwan (Rohan Mehra) and a horribly Gujarati Gordon Gecko named Shakun Kothari (Saif Ali Khan). I'm not against brand placements per se. But it's difficult to not be cynical about the intentions of a film that thrives on stock broking, reducing the mighty Radhika Apte to mandatory eye-candy, and random screens flashing colourful share prices. Forget any sort of playfulness. Greed is entrenched into the DNA of the filmmaking, too.
It's difficult to not be cynical about the intentions of a film that thrives on stock broking, reducing the mighty Radhika Apte to mandatory eye-candy, and random screens flashing colourful share prices.
Baazaar – described so intellectually as "NASA and Sabzi Mandi combine to form Dalal Street" by the violently expressionless Rizwan – is a five-year-old's guide to the money-counting galaxy. This is a universe in which finance bloggers, Lokhandwala-residing news anchors and fuzzy split-screen computer jargon can immediately ruin "top 25" companies, and where little daughters of ruthless businessmen prefer Superman to Batman. This is a "masala" film in which landing one big account elevates a rookie broker from a chawl to a fancy penthouse (thoughtfully missing windows so that suicide is imminent). Also, can someone please dispel the myth that the first thing posh bystanders at a party do when they watch a showdown between two idiotic industrialists is shove their camera phones in their faces so that the video goes viral?
Underdog idolizes shark, underdog impresses shark, shark eats underdog, shark poops out underdog, underdog exacts revenge – we know how it goes. No caricature is spared: The hero is a Muslim, the villain a Gujarati, the CBI inspector a Bengali, the heroine a North Indian. Money flows like non-alcoholic beer. When Rizwan starts the second half with "My story has not even started yet," it feels like a threat, and there have perhaps never been truer words said – for the entire first hour is spent depicting a rise so pointless and generic that you wonder if the research was simply limited to sitting in the Jain living rooms of second-generation Vile Parle families. When the plot tries to be over-smart in the second half, the camera keeps fixating on Radhika Apte's contemplative face. You know there is more to her than gorgeous sarees and dresses here – because she is shown smoking a cigarette, and we all know that there is no greater device of greyness for Bollywood writers than an Indian woman smoking on screen.
Most fascinating is Saif Ali Khan's Raees-meets-Rohit-from-Kal-Ho-Naa-Ho performance. His Hindi is typically Nawab-ish and, well, normal, and it's only his English that is forcibly tinged with an accent more unnatural than Anushka Sharma's in Jab Harry Met Sejal. Sentences are sprinkled with the odd 'dhandho' (business) and 'ghanto' (not "bell"), while he sips on whiskey and struts around with the air of a vegetarian Wolf of Dalal Street. He prides himself on profits and facts, and always being right about random metaphors.
When his opponent warns him by telling him to curb his greed and run a marathon instead of a 100-meter sprint, he rightfully replies that nobody remembers the world marathon champion, while everyone knows that Usain Bolt is the world 100-meter champion. If someone had stopped him right here and told him he was woefully wrong – Justin Gatlin is the reigning champion – we might have been spared the outdated sights and sounds of this arrogant bazaar. We might have even been spared an EDM anthem called "Maja Ma". The Gujarati in me is too tired to be offended.