In Saif’s Career’s Best, Baazaar Raises Hindi Cinema’s Equity

Movie: Baazaar

Starring: Saif Ali Khan, Rohan Mehra, Radhika Apte, Chitrangda Singh

Directed  by:  Gauravv K Chawla

Rating: ****(4 Stars)

 I can’t recall  a single  notable(or even non-notable)  Indian film based  on the  plunging dips and  giddying highs of  the stock market.

 Do you remember Harshad Mehta? How could you forget  the podgy stockbroker who made thousands  of Indians rich overnight and then it all ended in a financial mess in no time at all.

Saif Ali Khan’s Shakun Kothari’s destiny run on the same  lines. Except that Saif as the wily  ruthless Machiavellian stockbroker is  everything that Harshad  Mehta would have wanted to be. This  is Saif’s most gloriously written and  performed  part, meaty witty and  wicked. He chews into it  exposing a  sacred hunger that I didn’t notice  in his last over-hyped  outing .

Saif as  Shakun is  a trueblue  Gujju who won’t let neo-affluence corrupt his cultural integrity. He  slips into Gujju-ficationswith the unrehearsed  cuteness of  a tycoon who has long ceased  to be  cute to everyone including his own  wife and children.

When  debutant Rohan Mehra enters  the  plot as Rizwan there  is no Shakun Kothari around. We  know Rizwan idolizesShakun and wants to be like him.That’s  a very dangerous ambition to have. And who knows this better than Rizwan’s wifeChitrangda Singh who in a role severely conscripted by the plot’s bristling  sinewiness, manages to find her redemptive moment  in the grand finale.

 There  is  no redemption  for  Shakun. He  is showman a ball of fire  hurling down an  abyss, and enjoying every moment  of  it. The  film takes great pride in being clued into the inside workings  of  the stock market. Yet it  never  lets  the tone of know-all  selfcongratulation  come in the way  of telling us  the story of  ‘When Shakun Met Rohan’.

My quibble with the riveting script(Nikhil Advani,  Parvez Sheikh, Aseem Arora) is that it takes  its time in bringing the mentor and  protégée together. Saif and  the very fine and confident  debutant Rohan Mehra don’t have  enough  scenes  together. In fact Rohan builds  a better bond with Saif’s screen-wife Chitrangda Singh in just one  scene where the teary-eyed protegee tells his mentor’s wife that sometimes  you just need  to give the one  you love a  tight slap.

 The written word seldom gets to be conveyed with such unvarnished directness in commercial Hindi cinema where everyone  either talsk florid or  over-casual.In Baazaar the  emotions are  tightly reined-in as caustic vitriolic  conversations are let loose with not a  care about who’s eavesdropping.

  My favourite  line, and the  one that says it all  about  Shakun Kothari is the one in the  run-down Gujarati bhojanalaiya. “You think I come  here because I love the food? No ,the food is terrible! But it helps me never  forget where I came from” .

The blazing brilliance  of  the line is  never forgotten in a morality tale that never pushes its righteousness  into our face. In fact I suspect  the very assured debutant director  Gauravv K Chawla actually enjoys  his grey protagonist’s  amorality. Saif’s  blustering warmth   keeps Shakun Kothari  from falling apart even when the stakes are heavily weighed  against him. While some  of the other supporting performances  just don’t match up(the  ever-brilliant Manish Choudhary struggles  in an underwritten  role) Radhika Apte as  Rizwan’s go-getting colleague makes space  for herself.

In a way she  tokenizes the  film’s morality. In today’s times  you have to push you way into attention.

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