Baazaar Review

“Baazaar” is a pioneering movie of its kind that blends Hindi film sensibilities with a crisp storytelling of intrigue and betrayals set against the arena of India’s leading financial institution. (photo provided)

Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, Emmay Entertainment & Kyta Productions present “Baazaar”

Produced by: Dheeraj Wadhawan, Ajay Kapoor, Monisha Advani, Madhu Bhojwani & Nikkhil Advani

Directed by: Gauravv K. Chawla

Written by: Perveez Sheikh & Aseem Arora

Music: Yo Yo Honey Singh, Bilal Saeed, Kanika Kapoor, Tanishk Bagchi & Sohail Sen

Starring: Saif Ali Khan, Chitrangda Singh, Radhika Apte, Rohan Mehra, Sonia Balani, Pawan Chopra, Abhishek Gupta, Vikram Kapadia, Utkarsh Mazumdar, Danish Hussain, Sahil Sangha, Manish Chaudhari, Denzil Smith, Sai Gundewar, Sp. App.: Elli Avram & others

MUMBAI— A small-town and ambition-filled dude is raring to reach high in life. His name is Rizwan Ahmed (Rohan Mehra), and he will never settle for the mundane life his father (Pawan Chopra) has been leading as a loyal employee for 25 years. Against his dad’s wishes, he comes to make it big in Mumbai, his ideal being Shakun Kothari (Saif Ali Khan), a semi-educated whizkid from Surat married to Mandira (Chitrangda Singh), who has made a mark with his rapid rise in the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) with his ingenious moves, fair or foul.

Rizwan first operates from a broking company, befriending the ambitious Priya (Radhika Apte) by default and impressing the boss (Denzil Smith). Beginner’s luck helps and soon he meets his idol and faces a challenge from him. As he succeeds in meeting it, Shakun offers him a position.

Well-settled now, Rizwan, on Shakun’s advice, goes back to visit his family and a marriage is arranged for his very affectionate and supportive sister Aamna (Sonia Balani). At Shakun’s and Mandira’s insistence, the ceremony will be held in Mumbai and co-hosted by them.

A parallel track sees SEBI (Stock Exchange Board of India) investigator Rana (Manish Chaudhuri) investigating the crooked deals of Shakun, fruitlessly for eight years. And being Shakun’s associate now, Rizwan also comes in the line of fire.

The film is a taut thriller, and but for the complex discussions and mention of stocks, shares, and casual discussions of crores and market jargon, would have been a human-centric gripping story of greed, manipulation, and principles (or lack of them). Using Rizwan’s unalloyed ambitiousness, and Shakun’s daredevil unscrupulousness as a backdrop, the writers and new director Gauravv K. Chawla use the BSE milieu to spin a riveting story of how far one should go in fulfilling one’s dreams, and whether the journey to that destination is finally worth what one loses on the way – from morals to relationships.

A lot of the film is told in flashback, after the opening sequence in which Rizwan is set to commit suicide by jumping off a high-rise in despair.

That “Baazaar” is a pioneering movie of its kind that blends Hindi film sensibilities with a crisp storytelling of intrigue and betrayals set against the arena of India’s leading financial institution is obvious. Writers Sheikh and Arora (his lines are plain fabulous and crisp) and director Chawla create a deft and dangerous world, and then pull you, heavily involved, into it. The marriage sequence of Aamna, the initial scene at the Jain religious venue, the train sequence and the Shakun-Rizwan confrontation are where the writers and director score highest.

And is there a pure soul in this mélange of scruple-free investors, politicians and related characters? Apart from Rizwan’s sister, father, and bro-in-law, that is, who are from Allahabad? To be sure, there is, and that person finally decides the future for both Shakun and Rizwan!

At 140 minutes, the film does not let go, though perhaps editors Maahir Zaveri and Arjun Srivastava do get a shade lax in parts of the second half. The technical side is above-average, and mention must be made of John Stewart Eduri’s background score.

If there is one BIG grouse, it is the usual ‘today’ one: the music, other than “Kem Chho” that is. Think for a moment: Rizwan is from Allahabad, Shakun and his family from Gujarat, Priya is raised in Mumbai, also the place where it all happens. AND the music is Punjabi-heavy! Forget the fact that it is not memorable at all, why could not the score be at least authentic for the subject?

But “Baazaar” apart from his high-class production values, is powered by its performers. Saif Ali Khan, inarguably, delivers the finest performance of his career, which going by his past high standards, is indeed pretty colossal. We have never had a truly top hero after Sanjeev Kumar from Gujarat, but we do not think any other present Gujarati actor would have been as believable and completely into the Surat-Mumbai-BSE ethos as he is. His entry is magnificent, and so are his climactic and post-climactic sequences. Watch every aspect – his eyes, when they choose to meet, the perfect accent, the body language, that mischievous smile that can be full of foreboding too, those sudden bouts of temper, the chilled-out countenance in adversity: Saif is indeed “mindblowing” in his impact.

Giving him fitting company and contrast is Rohan Mehra: the late Vinod Mehra would have been proud of his son, who exudes a rare promise and much more for a debutant. His final scenes are even more special. Radhika Apte is charming again, with a longer and well fleshed-out role than in many of her recent outings. Chitrangda Singh’s character is very downplayed, but the role demands that. She is, overall, effective, especially in the second half. Sonia Balani is fabulous as Rizwan’s sister. From the support, every actor or actress is well-cast.

This may not be a film for the masses, but the filmmakers and its cast and crew deserve to be proud of themselves. Hopefully, in an era where good commercial cinema makes decent money, so will this film.

Rating: ***1/2

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