By Poulomi Das Oct. 26, 2018
Baazaar doesn’t have characters – just caricatures. Every plot point of the film is an extended open-mic joke that refuses to land. And you can tell a lot about a film where the lead – Rohan Mehra in his debut role – exists just to prove that Arjun Kapoor isn’t the most one-dimensional actor in Bollywood.
In the first few minutes of Gauravv K Chawla’s Baazaar, comes a moment where a sister encourages her brother to leave their small town and go to Mumbai to follow his dreams. They share this quiet moment of understanding, just after he’s had an altercation with the father. An incisive film would’ve mined this situation to explore the fraught interpersonal relationships in a small family. And a sentimentally manipulative film would’ve exploited the melodrama of this moment, making the audience invest in these characters. Baazaar attempts neither.
Instead, the scene exists only to endorse Paytm. The sister says that moving to Mumbai is very easy. She opens the Paytm app and books a flight for him in under a minute – roughly the amount of time the makers spent thinking about the plot before proceeding to make a 2.5-hour- long film.
Baazaar revolves around Rizwan Ahmed (a robotic Rohan Mehra), a small-time stock broker from Allahabad, who fanboys over a corrupt Mumbai businessman Shakun Kothari (a sleepwalking Saif Ali Khan), clearly proving that Indian men need better role models. Rizwan’s lifelong dream is to be as rich and successful Kothari and so he sets out for Mumbai. In the process, he gets caught up in a game of lies and betrayal.
In its opening minutes, the film gets down to business: It proves Shakun’s ruthlessness and Rizwan’s genius. At a Jain gathering, Shakun utters “Micchami Dukkadam” (I seek your forgiveness) before attempting a hostile company takeover. The process involves scheming, lying, being homophobic, and outing his closeted cousin to his family to have the last word. You know, just the usual recipes for melodrama and business.
Baazaar doesn’t have characters – just caricatures.
On the other hand, Rizwan impresses the boss of Capital Broking, Mumbai’s best stock broking company, by standing outside the premises for one full morning. It’s also accompanied by him fulfilling a challenge to sell a cup of coffee to a room by drinking it himself and then paying for it. Any company would be idiotic if they didn’t end up hiring Rizwan after this incredible display of talent, so you can guess what happened in Bazaar. (I hope the script for Employee of the Year is underway.)
On paper, Baazaar is meant to be a gritty look at the stock market, a serious exploration of the far-reaching effects of money and power in Mumbai, and the pressure on brokers to resort to unethical means. Yet you learn as much about the stock market, Mumbai, or brokers as you did before you entered the theatre. Baazaar’s daftness made me miss a badly made film because it doesn’t even make that effort.
For instance, Baazaar’s punchline is about Shakun proclaiming that he’s a 100m sprinter, not a marathon runner and Rizwan claims the opposite. Both the leads name the world’s best sprinter and marathon runner respectively to illustrate their point but get this – the film gets their names wrong. It assumes showing two characters make out, attempt foreplay, dance, and get drunk is a legit way of driving every big plot point forward. One of the film’s twists come from a BBM broadcast that a school girl forwards to her class, except the last time anyone used a BlackBerry was a good five years ago.
Baazaar doesn’t have characters – just caricatures. Every plot point of the film is an extended open-mic joke that refuses to land. And you can tell a lot about a film where the lead (which is Mehra’s debut role) exists just to prove that Arjun Kapoor isn’t the most one-dimensional actor in Bollywood, where Radhika Apte refuses to have more than three expressions, and in which an arrest is explained with “English bolte bolte, Jai shri krishna bolna hi bhul gaye.”
I wish I could find something good to say about Baazaar. Sadly, it’s so bad that it’s not even good.
When not obsessing over TV shows, planning unaffordable vacations, or stuffing her face with french fries, Poulomi likes believing that some day her sense of humour will be darker than her under-eye circles.