‘Baazaar’ review: Bland Stock Exchange

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

LICH rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars (1.5 / 5) (This rating is only a snapshot. The details are in the words.)

What does it take to make into the big, bad highs-and-lows world of market trading? Some manic focus combined with an eagle-eye on the indices? A ruthless, take-no-one-alive assassin-like steady hand on the “buy-sell” triggers? If director Gauravv K Chawla is to be believed, it’s none of this. What you need is a decently-funded Paytm account to book your air tickets from your hometown to India’s moneybags capital Mumbai, the ability to catch the eyes of a mid-sized brokerage firm’s owner in said city, and then crack the interview by drinking a cup of coffee that may just be a little too thick for your taste. Then, by sheer serendipity of a telephone call crack the biggest deal for that firm, helped along by your girlfriend—which in turn gets you into the books of the rising star of the stocks.

Rohan Mehra and Saif Ali Khan wonder at what could have been
Rohan Mehra and Saif Ali Khan wonder at what could have been.

That, unfortunately, just about sums the anodyne of a story that the trio of Nikkhil Advani, Parveez Sheikh, and Aseem Arora script in Baazaar.  Saif Ali Khan performs valiantly as Shakun Kothari, delivering a sharpness to his role that goes beyond the paper and the low-definition writing that pervades all through the movie. Which is what also lets down debutante Rohan Mehra—son of the late, likeable, and steadily effective Vinod Mehra. Mehra Jr. is likeable too but that’s all that he is here; his weakly characterized Rizwan Ahmed deserved so much more meat and slyness. Here, his The Wolf of Wall Street-inspired shout-out pitching on the brokerage firm’s floor is as spirited as a hypertensive diet, which is all a pity. You also feel no repugnance at Kothari’s behavior—be it his morals or his double-standards with his family of a wife—Mandira, played with an upper-society dryness by Chitrangada Singh in a role that doesn’t do her much credit— and two kids.

Saif Ali Khan is valiant, but the writing's Valium
Saif Ali Khan is valiant, but the writing’s Valium.

On the other hand, Rizwan’s pivot of morals is even more mystifying—it’s as if someone would join Carlos the Jackal’s team and then be perplexed when told to fire a sniper’s gun. As is Radhika Apte‘s choice of selecting this role, though she sparkles even in this flimsily-layered character. Nothing ever comes together to deliver what could have been a smart financial thriller. There’s no live, down-to-the-wire trading scenes that you keep wide-eyed, even if you understand zilch about the stock market. Even a take-off from the smart and gripping TV show Billions—where an investigating official, Rana Dasgupta (Manish Chaudhary), is hot on the rising indices of Kothari—is handled with the panache of a sleepwalker in sprint. And the show’s reference doesn’t end there: the background score at a diamond-studded party spills into a familiar theme music. And so, when the supposed twist does come, you handle it with the equanimity of someone who’s just out of a spiritual retreat. Because instead of a twisty, short-trading thriller, you get a predictable predicament of a journey, where all the usual suspects stand where you’d expect them to, doing what you thought they would. And the songs do nothing to relieve the tedium.

There’s a scene in the men’s room where Mehra’s Rizwan throws the bait at Khan’s Kothari—and you wait in anticipation as there’s a brief moment of the stringing in and suspension of a decision; where you think there’ll be tensile stress and strain between the two going forward, each playing off each other. What you get instead is a low-performing stock with measly pay-outs and indiscernible interest.


LICH ratings chart
1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5): Don’t bother
2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5): Not too great
3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5): Worth a watch
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5): Very good
5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5): Drop everything else NOW


Baazaar (2018) on IMDb

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Baazaar is rated U/A (Parental Guidance for children below the age of 12 years) There’s some drugs, sensuality.

Director Gauravv K Chawla Running Time 2h 17min
Writers Nikkhil Advani, Parveez Sheikh, Aseem Arora
Saif Ali Khan, Rohan Mehra, Radhika Apte, Chitrangda Singh, Manish Chaudhary
Genres  Crime, Drama, Thriller

Watch the trailer of Baazaar here:

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