Baazaar: Saif Ali Khan's film could mark a new beginning for Bollywood with its treatment of financial markets

Abhishek Srivastava

October 29, 2018 11:27:09 IST

The Saif Ali Khan-starrer Baazaar is releasing after the mega success of Sacred Games. It is an important film for the actor considering his last four releases - Phantom, Rangoon, Chef and Kaalakaandi failed to leave a mark at the box office. The film also marks the debut of Rohan Mehra, son of yesteryear actor Vinod Mehra. But one feature about the film that towers above everything is the fact that it happens to be one of those rare Bollywood offerings, the background of which is set in the underbelly of the stock market, trade and finances. Judging by the first look of the trailer, influences from Oliver Stone’s Wall Street are plastered all over it. The plot of Baazaar may be about a stock market maverick passing on tricks of the trade to his protégé, but at heart, it remains a film that deals with the topsy-turvy world of the finance market, wheeling and dealings and hostile takeovers which contribute to the might of the bull and fall of the bear. It’s astonishing to see that Bollywood has forever maintained a safe distance from this gritty genre which possibly combines all emotions one often gets to see in a typical commercial Bollywood film. The drama, the heartbreak, the backhand manoeuvres of the business genre have clearly been sidestepped in favour of the more acceptable action, romance and comedy.

Saif ali Khan in Baazaar. Image via Twitter/@Subrata56010558

Saif ali Khan in Baazaar. Image via Twitter/@Subrata56010558

It might come as a shock to many that Bollywood has virtually never stepped into the domain of stock markets. The only Bollywood film that showed the mercurial nature of the stock market operation was Gafla, a lesser-known gem. When released in 2006, Gafla sunk without leaving any trace at the box office. Moreover, most people remain unaware of its existence too. Gafla was loosely based on the Machiavellian dealings of Harshad Mehta, the big bull, who dominated the market in 90s and made immense personal gains with his financial crimes. The scam was finally unearthed in 1992 and caused a turmoil in the stock market. Now that Baazaar has plunged into this genre, its audacity should be commended not before taking a look at Hollywood. Wall Street, Margin Call, Boiler Room, The Big Short, The Wolf of Wall Street, Trading Places, Barbarians at the Gate and Rogue Trader are films which earned accolades and moolah in equal measure. Films like The Big Short, Margin Call and The Wolf of Wall Street even made their presence felt at the Oscars. While Michael Douglas won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in Wall Street, The Wolf of Wall Street earned five nominations at the 2014 Oscars.

Bollywood’s lackadaisical attitude towards such films can only be attributed to the nature of such films. Most Bollywood filmmakers are people with hardly any appetite for risks. The very nature of the stock market and its terminologies remain alien and incomprehensible to many Indians. The task of simplifying such complicated things and then packaging the same in a palatable format is enough to intimidate most moviemakers. Baazaar, then, could be seen as the flag-bearer of the changing taste of Indian audiences and avant garde film makers, who are known for tackling off beat and daring subjects.

India abounds with thousands of stories related to scams, Ponzi schemes, corporate manoeuvres but none have been brought alive on screen. Contrast this with Hollywood offerings like Margin Call (based on the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers), The Big Short (based on the stock market crash of 2008) and The Wolf of Wall Street (based on the maverick Wall Street stock broker Jordan Belfort). The plot of these films were were directly picked from newspapers. The Al Pacino and Jack Lemmon-starrer Glengarry Glen Ross though never directly dealt with the stock market but the hunt for leads in the real estate business had never been shown in such a stark manner in Hollywood before. One can only come to the conclusion that Bollywood has not yet woken up to the potential of stories centered around the stock market.

In 1996, CR Bhansali was caught raising public money through MFs and debentures through non-existent firms, while Ketan Parekh in 2001 was caught by SEBI when he indulged in circular trading in selected stocks via money borrowed from banks. Similarly, the amount of money involved when Jignesh Shah took everyone for a ride was close to Rs 5600 crores through the modus operandi of offering fixed returns on paired contracts. These are stories that are waiting to be told on celluloid. Cases like Saradha scam, Satyam scam and Sahara housing bonds hogged limelight in the newspapers for months and are stories which have the makings of a Bollywood adaptation.

Notwithstanding the Gujarati clichés which are synonymous with Indian stock markets and have been used amply in Baazaar, the film seems to mark a new beginning and should be treated as another genre that Bollywood can dive deep in.

Updated Date: Oct 29, 2018 11:27 AM