A famous Hollywood character once intoned: greed is good. He lived the good life: fast lanes, cars, yachts, watches, women. And then came the crash, and we were told that whoever goes up, comes down. That’s what happens when you work from greed, not need.
Saif Ali Khan plays Shakun Kothari, a top Mumbai player, the king of the stock market, who risks big, and wins bigger. Till one day, he doesn’t. Newbie Rizwan Ahmad (Mehra), small town boy from Allahabad understands hunger and drive and is willing to cross a line. Till one day, he isn’t.
The clash between Kothari and Ahmad is one we’ve seen often, between the established biggie and the rapid climber. That’s how Michael Douglas’s Gordon Gecko got to redefine greed in Wall Street in 1987 to the up and coming Charlie Sheen’s bright new boy on the floor; Baazaar in 2018 is almost the same film in a different setting, but with none of the sharpness of the original.
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The treatment is moth-balled (a line in English is translated immediately after in Hindi) and hackneyed. Bad songs punctuate the proceedings. Background music is used to buoy almost every scene. We’ve seen almost each of those beats before, to the point we can tell what the character is going to say next.
Debutant Rohan Mehra works hard at investing ambitious Allahabad boy with sincerity. Khan, who does all the heavy lifting here, brings to his never-forget-your-roots Gujju bhai a canny ruthlessness, even if his accent slips in places. He’s always doing something interesting, though: I kept looking for that little thing he does with his fingers, a twist and a flick. It’s nice to see Singh, who plays the rich Kothari’s wife and moral centre, moving away from the forgettable item number template that she’d got stuck with, but she’s more stock than anything else. And Apte, as Ahmad’s girl-friend, is playing Apte: she’s never unwatchable, but she’s getting repetitive. Time for role change.
The faithful old-timers Kothari surrounds himself with, and the traditional ways of doing business in today’s age: some of those little touches lift the film, and you hope for more, but it sinks right back into its axis of corrupt politicians, stockbrokers with too much wealth, insider trading and complicit TV anchors, rich men (and women) plotting to make more money, and others about to step off high-rises. Seen that.
Net worth of Baazaar: an interesting bunch of actors in an uninteresting, uninvolving film.