Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Rohan Mehra, Radhika Apte
Director: Gauravv K Chawla
When a debutant actor is asked to break the fourth wall in the second scene, you know the first-time director is confident. You also expect the film to be edgy and stylish. What you don’t want it to be is the rehash of a million done-to-death tropes. Baazaar, a very Bollywoodi-sed version of Wall Street’s Gordon Gekko, shows promise, pushes you into the semi-dark world of Mumbai’s stockbrokers, makes you admire the fast-paced narrative but still leaves you with one predominant thought—how it could have been a much better film.
Rizwan Ahmed’s (Rohan Mehra) dream to get ‘settled’ in the Maximum City is also about leaving the tag of ‘small town mentality’ behind in Allahabad. Shakun Kothari (Saif Ali Khan), a dubious figure in the ever-exciting world of share market sharks, is what Rizwan wants to be. After successfully manoeuvring a couple of sticky situations, like drinking a spitted coffee or challenging a big investor in a toilet, he manages to get into Shakun’s good books. The idol and the ambitious protégé together set out on a path of deceits, quick dollars (or rupees) and cheating lovers.
You’ll instantly notice the good things about Baazaar. Saif has been given a well-carved character to play with. Shakun Kothari’s humble origin, greed for profit and penchant for unethical means all get conveyed right in the opening scene. Though overdramatic, it sets the mood. The writers—Aseem Arora, Parvez Sheikh and Nikhhil Advani—introduce us to Shakun’s ways through his gestures. He doesn’t do the obvious. For instance, though his relationship with his ‘sophisticated’ wife Mandira (Chitrangada Singh) is strained, he doesn’t hold hands of other women to make her uncomfortable.
Similarly, when called a fraud, he gets really furious and reminds the other person of their own unscrupulous methods. He knows what others think of him but he is at peace with it till the time his profits are growing. That way, it’s a role with great potential and Saif is out there to explore it.
Meanwhile, Rohan Mehra’s lean-framed dreamy-eyed boy displays vulnerability, a trait that helps him in being in the background of suspicious events. Though his character arc is unidirectional, he appears at ease. It’s not his fault that his rags to riches story is shown within seconds. Actually, cutting down on the drama could have given Baazaar a more authentic feel. In its current form, Baazaar lacks the realistic angle that connects audience with characters despite the omnipresent glass screen between them.
For the most part, the film also suffers from trying to needlessly spoon-feed the audiences and provide Hindi translations to basic English terms. Moreover, the entire arc of top business schools versus street-smart business ideas is repetitive and annoying. It’s about time that Indian filmmakers began trusting their audience’s intelligence.
In fact, Radhika Apte’s manipulative Priya is also guilty of it. She will hammer you down with ‘line cross karna padta hai’ kind of dialogues till you agree with her.
However, what works in Baazaar’s favour is the effort put in Saif’s character. He holds the film together with his conniving charm. Rohan and Radhika support him in being the central pillar of this 140-minute long story.
But what hampers the narrative’s flow is the director’s love for melodrama, oddly-timed twists and glossy songs. Without them, Baazaar could have been a much sleeker and a lot more gripping story of insatiable greed.
To give credit where it’s due, Baazaar is still a ‘masala’ entertainer, provided you don’t ask for more than what’s offered.
Interact with Rohit Vats at Twitter/@nawabjha