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Siraj Syed


Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 

 

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Baazaar, Review: Insighter trading

Baazaar, Review: Insighter trading

Allahabad (now renamed Prayagraj) boy Rizwan Ahmed idolises stock market wolf Shakun Kothari and aims to become a billionaire tycoon like his hero. Baazaar then moves on to detail how unscrupulous and manipulative, even corrupt, Kothari is, and how all this impacts the small-town boy who has a sister to marry, and to live up to the expectations of an honest father who has just retired. Get ready for an insight into the world of stocks and shares, insider trading and insightful knowledge that can result in a few billions changing hands before you can say Shakun Robinson!

The stock exchange in India is colloquially referred to as the stock market or share bazaar. India’s main exchange is located in its commercial capital, Mumbai (formerly Bombay). But with the advent of technology, one can trade in shares from just about anywhere in the country. Rizwan is a trader in Allahabad, which offers him no access to any of the big stock-broking firms or major share-market players. So, he wants to head for Mumbai, a move that his father staunchly opposes. But with support from his sister Aamna, he heads for the big Apple…rather the Big Baazaar.

Problems greet him from the moment he lands here. He will not get accommodation because he is a Muslim and, moreover, single. What if he turns out to be a terrorist? Also, Capital Broking, the leading company in the field, will not even give him the time of day. Why would they? They are packed with MBAs and IIMs. One day, he manages to hoodwink some of the staff members and hopes to get an interview. Very soon, he is booted out. Wadhwa and Priya, two senior staffers, take pity on him after he posts a lonely vigil outside their office for days on end. Soon, he becomes part of the big bad world of money manipulators. He gets to meet Kothari and the big man himself takes a fancy to him. Priya falls in love with him and his sister is engaged to be married soon. Money is coming too, in steady, large, bursts. So, why is he standing on the edge of his high-rise balcony? Is he planning to commit suicide, like one his predecessors did?

Producer and Screenplay (co) writer Nikkhil Advani is a famous director himself. Parveez Shaikh’s pen was instrumental in shaping Queen, Phantom and Force 2. Aseem Arora has worked a lot in TV and film credits include Kya Dilli Kya Lahore, Vaada Raha... I Promise, and Heroes. To straddle both the horses—the evil black one personified by Shakun and the good, white one, embodied by Rizwan—they have divided the footage equally. Then again, Rizwan is not really all white. He is more grey than white. By the time you reach the end of the 140 minute saga, you know that the sympathies of the writers and the director tilt towards one of them, and I will not burst any spoilers here.

Baazaar marks the cinematic debut of Gauravv K. Chawla, who won plaudits for his work in TV. From his narrative, to the initiated, the goings on are nothing new, including ‘insider trading’. To the innocent cine-goer who does not follow the prices of shares, and the headlines featuring scamsters, Baazaar will come as a revelation. But they will have to keep their antennae raised high, in order to follow the buying of crores of rupees worth of stock in some companies and selling it all off in others. To give the story a contemporaneous setting, several references are made to scams that rocked the Indian economy over the last decade, but all are veiled and with names changed. Shakun Kothari and other big players are portrayed not as Uncle Scrooges, but smoking, drinking, partying, and cruising beings, but with several anomalies where Kothari is concerned. His man Friday is no gun-toting bouncer but an old Gujarati faithful with the innocuous name of Bipinbhai. And he eats a thalee (a combo meal) in a non-descript street-side joint, not a 24 course/$240 buffet in a seven star restaurant.

We see two extreme sides of him—he participates in michhami dukkadam, the religious ritual of asking all those whom one has sinned against for forgiveness, in the beginning and end of the film, as a case of organic unity, and we also see him use his full-toned sculpted physique to knock down opponents with a single blow. Incidentally, the michhami practice is a Jain ritual, but Shakun is projected as a Hindu who has forsaken his Jai Shri Krishna (hail Lord Krishna) greeting for more fashionable English phrases, something for which his wife Mandira pulls him up. He even plays on allegory when his daughter questions his methods and his reputation, comparing himself to Batman as the Dark Night, in comparison with the Goody-Goody Superman. Probably inspired by the ShahRukh Khan starrer Raees, in which he reveals his secret as being the combination of a baniya (trader)’s mind and a Muslim’s “daring”, we have a fable of a brainy Bengali and a money-wise Gujarati travelling together on a train, related by Shakun, even as the Bengali (Dasgupta) is conducting a raid on Shakun’s premises.

Nothing is found in the raid, and the officials of the Securities and Exchanges Board of India (SEBI) come across as wimps and inefficient bureaucrats. After years of chasing, they have notched up nothing against Shakun. But then if they were clever, we would have no story, would we? The one time they hit jackpot is not because of their own search and seizure raid but because of a brainwave that suddenly surges in Rizwan’s cerebrum. Fascinated by numbers and options, the makers get Shakun to offer Utkarsh Mazumdar one of four deadly choices. Later, Shakun explains to Rizwan that he has done one of three things/or all of the above. Standing on the parapet, Rizwan tells Priya that he had three courses of action to choose from. On yet another occasion, Shakun lists the two rules that govern his life. And when asked to speak from a public platform, he declares one basic credo--that money is not God, but it is not less than God either. After all, and not surprisingly at all, Shakun works on maths and Rizwan works on emotions.

When it is revealed near the climax that two characters have spilled the beans, their identities come as no surprise whatsoever, which is an inherent weakness in the script. Another weakness are the songs, which have no place in a subject of this nature.

Saif Ali Khan as Shakun Kothari works hard, damn hard, on his eyes, half-smile and diction. He is shrewd and menacing, loves his family and even mouths some Gujarati. And that body is in prime shape too. Yet, he just does not come across as Shakun Kothari. He does not look it, he does not send those vibes. Rohan Mehra, son of actor Vinod Mehra who passed away nearly 30 years ago, is barely acceptable as Rizwan Ahmed, in his debut. Radhika Apte as Priya Rai is more in command than in her recent outings. Chitrangada Singh as Mandira Kothari walks into that role, but the Gujarati strikes a falsetto and the Hindi strikes an English accent. Denzil Smith as Kishore Wadhwa has a small role, convincingly essayed. Manish Chaudhary acts as Rana Dasgupta, the SEBI boss who is about to retire, and looks as if he is only interested in packing his bags. Danish Husain is cast as Dubey, the corrupt Government official, while Sonia Balani plays Aamna Ahmed.

Baazaar has Swapnil Sonawane as cinematographer (some god visuals, including the train scene) and Maahir Zaveri as the editor (needed even more drastic editing).

We have had a film on a bank (Gaon/Village, released with Baazaar) and this one is on the stock exchange. That still leaves mutual funds open. Any takers?

Rating: **

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pb7iJnIWzNk

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.


Bandra West, Mumbai

India



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