Movie review: Baazaar
The first intense scene in Baazaar takes place during a religious ceremony in a lavish auditorium where a poker faced man takes on two generations of an established business family. He stages a ruthless and hostile take over, and in this way, as chants of repentance resonate in the hall, we are introduced to the cut-throat Shakun Kothari (Saif Ali Khan).
Kothari is admired and reviled in equal measure. He’s admired by the ambitious young men and women of the financial world -- aspirants like Rizwan Ahmed (Rohan Mehra), a stock broker from Allahabad, and Priya, a seasoned broker in Mumbai. Conversely, Kothari is loathed by his business associates for his underhand methods.
Director Gauravv K. Chawla’s movie is a localised take on Wall Street set in Dalal Street. It’s a guide and protégé story which pits greed and ambition against morality and redemption.
Rizwan breaks the fourth wall and relates his experiences directly to the audience. As he stands teetering on the precipice, staring down at annihilation, Rizwan goes back in time to recount how he aspired to be like millionaire Kothari and, as he often repeats, came to Mumbai not to struggle, but to settle.
With a little help from colleague and girlfriend Priya (Radhika Apte), the small town boy manages to get onto Kothari’s radar and impress him. It’s not long before Rizwan moves from a tenement to a luxury high rise, giving the producers an opportunity to include one of the handful of inelegant brand placements.
He’s now in the big league, enjoying weekends at the Kothari family’s beach house in the company of Shakun’s long-suffering wife Mandira (Chitrangda Singh) and their children. But while things seem hunky-dory for Rizwan, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) is tightening its net around Kothari. All that’s missing is the crucial piece of evidence that will prove insider trading, corruption etc.
But the street-smart Kothari is usually one step ahead. In another taut scene, Kothari engages the Sebi investigating officer with a brainteaser. This demonstrates the businessman’s audaciousness and smarts. Here’s a man who doesn’t leave a paper trail, but he does set up a scapegoat.
Debutant Rohan Mehra’s sincerity compensates for his inexperience. Khan is edgy in his approach to the mercenary Gujarati businessman, blending the right amount of wickedness with wilfulness. It’s refreshing to see Apte in a role that balances glamour with craftiness.
In spite of obvious Hollywood influences and tropes of the financial thriller, Chawla constructs a largely engaging thriller (which doesn’t gain from the songs and dances) from Aseem Arora and Parveez Sheikh’s script which takes some convenient liberties with the plot.
Baazaarmay not capture the breathlessness of the volatile stock market, but it does present an interesting dynamic between mentor and mentee set in a familiar Mumbai milieu.
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