Baazaar movie review: Saif Ali Khan's swag never flags in this unflaggingly middling affair

Someone please convince Saif Ali Khan to revive the instincts that led him to Dil Chahta Hai, Hum Tum, Ek Hasina Thi and Omkara.

Anna MM Vetticad October 26, 2018 10:41:01 IST

1.5/5

In a brief job interview in the conference room of a leading Mumbai stockbroking firm, Baazaar's hero Rizwan Ahmed (Rohan Mehra) is challenged by a smart alec MBA to sell a cup of coffee in that room. "Sell it and the job is yours," he says. To underline his desire to belittle Rizwan, the fellow spits into a mug before handing it to him.

Rizwan is from a small town, but he is no shrinking puppy. He coolly drinks the spit, puts down a hundred bucks on the table and says, "Sold, Sir. To myself."

(Note: that was not a spoiler - the scene is in the film's promotional trailer.)

Ooh! So clever, na?

Or maybe not? Remember, the said smart alec only asked for the coffee to be sold, not drunk. The point of getting Rizwan to drink the spit was to underline the lengths to which he is willing to go to make it big - and of course to come up with a memorable scene - but if you think about it, far from being smart, he was being downright stupid, and the same can be said of the scene, based as it is on a gaping loophole.

Baazaar movie review Saif Ali Khans swag never flags in this unflaggingly middling affair

Saif Ali Khan in a still from Baazaar

When director Gauravv K Chawla's Baazaar is not trying to impress us in this fashion with its coolth, it remains inoffensive and mildly engaging even if generic. Rizwan is from Allahabad and keen to strike gold in Mumbai's share market. His God in the business is Shakun Kothari (Saif Ali Khan), a Gujarati billionaire who has risen similarly from the ranks.

When Shakun is not buying and selling shares, betraying friends and selling his soul, he hangs out with his beautiful wife Mandira (Chitrangda Singh) - a khaandaani raees who has never known want - and their two lovely daughters. When Rizwan is not on the trading floor, he is building a romantic relationship with his gorgeous, unscrupulous colleague Priya (Radhika Apte).

A dogged SEBI official, meanwhile, has made it his goal to pin Shakun down one day.

Rizwan deals in stocks and shares, the film deals in the lines people cross and consciences that are killed on the road to wealth, and whether it is necessary to be unemotional and amoral to get there. The most interesting parts come when Shakun turns on persons who accuse him of being a fraud - suddenly, his calm exterior cracks, he snarls and gets violent as he lists out the fraudulent measures adopted by the other individual without any qualms until he was outwitted by Shakun.

There is an allusion to class bias in one of these confrontations. Corruption, after all, is less abhorrent in many Indian eyes when it comes packaged in designer business suits, an urbane exterior and a slick English accent. What Baazaar hints at therefore is also the hypocrisy of those who judge the corrupt. These are the elements in the script that should have been explored further. Unfortunately, Chawla is far more committed to the thriller aspect of the film, and that part is just so-so. While most of Baazaar is devoted to Rizwan's rise and fall, his revenge and the accompanying dialoguebaazi come too quickly and too conveniently to be either convincing or gripping. Even Baazaar's expensive look and colour scheme that foregrounds white, red and steel gray, is too familiar from past Bollywood projects that are distinguished by their conviction that they are suave. The result is a middling film, meriting neither love nor hate.

Radhika Apte's striking presence makes hers the most impactful of the film's supporting characters. Chitrangda Singh looks stunning, but has the same expression pasted on her face throughout. Rohan Mehra, who gets the meatiest role in Bazaar, is okay as an actor, I guess, but there is nothing about his performance or his personality that explains why so much faith has been invested in him.

Saif Ali Khan's swag never flags in his performance as Shakun. No one can make evil look quite as attractive as this Khan. That said, he really needs to take a long hard look at his script choices. He is unarguably the Hindi film industry's most under-rated star actor, an artiste who does not get the credit he deserves for the depth he is capable of because he is so good at what he does, that he makes it look easy. Someone please convince him to revive the instincts that led him to Dil Chahta Hai, Hum Tum, Ek Hasina Thi and Omkara, and to get himself more projects worthy of his gift.

Until then, those of us who respect his innate talent and charisma will be left continuously tearing our hair out wondering when he will find the next Farhan Akhtar, the next Kunal Kohli, the next Sriram Raghavan or the next Vishal Bhardwaj of his life. Baazaar ain't a patch on any of the above films, but it is not intolerable either. What it is is forgettable. Saif Ali Khan is the best thing about this ordinary film.

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