Director: Kookie Gulati
Writers: Kookie Gulati, Arjun Dhawan; Ritesh Shah
Cinematography: Vishnu Shah
Editor: Darmendra Sharma
Starring: Abhishek Bachchan, Ileana D’Cruz, Saurab Shukla, Ram Kapoor, Mahesh Manjakar, Sohum Shah and Samir Soni
Streaming on: Disney + Hotstar
The story of Harshad Mehta, also known as the Big Bull, is something very beautiful. This is a warning tale that shows us the consequences of bias and greed. This is an exciting story about rags to riches, in which the outsider, at least for a while, beats the system. It is also a picture of a moment in history when the idea and ethos of India are changing. And yet there is not enough to carry here both a series of 10 episodes, which lasts up to eight hours and forty-two minutes, and a film with a length of two hours and thirty-two minutes.
The truth is that host Abhishek Bachchan and director Kuki Gulati face impossible chances. Just five months ago, host Pratik Gandhi and directors Hansal and Jai Mehta prepared every tasty twist in this rich and distorted story. 1992 fraud it was a rivet, with great performances, superb writing – who can forget Harshad’s line?the risk is high”- a production design that recreated the world from the late 80s and early 90s, and a theme by Ahint Thakar, which perfectly encapsulates Harshad’s blanket and the ominous nuances of its meteoric rise. In essence, the series made this film unnecessary.
The big bull it also has to contend that it is a film that was originally created for theatrical performance, but has since been modified to suit the perceived tastes of OTT audiences. I’m not sure what has changed, but Kookie and Arjun Dhawan’s script is a mess that relies heavily on exposure, cuts and clumsy background music for drama and coherence. We started in 1993 with negotiations in which we heard the line, “Bhagwan se bhi zyada paise hain hain humare paas. “Then we blink to 2020, with Ileana D’Croose playing the figure of Sucheta Dalal: she talks about the Big Bull and how she came to write a book about it. Unlike the series, here the names change – so Harshad Mehta says Hemant Shah, and Ileana is a journalist named Myra, and the film begins with a disclaimer that it is “somewhat inspired by real events.” I’m not sure what that means.
The story then goes into retrospect. We also have flashbacks in flashbacks and from time to time the story goes back to Miera, who with delicious gray stripes in her hair continues to tell about the rise and fall of Hemant. The problem is that if you have seen Fraud, the deja vu is too strong: once again we see Kalbadevi’s scarf, which is eventually replaced by a penthouse with a swimming pool – for a short time the stockbroker becomes “Mumbai Ka Raja”, playing golf high above the city. We see the screaming offices where deals are made and crore rupees exchange hands; we see the stock market, where men in blue coats give frantic signals to their hands and create or dissipate wealth; and once again we hear the dialogue ‘market sharing ka Amitabh Bachchan’.
IN Fraud, Mehtas seamlessly combined high drama with realistic textures. The brilliant dialogue-baazi was interrupted by extremely authentic performances. There was a zero posture, even when Harshad released lines like “Success hai kya, failure ke baad ka head. ” The big bull is invented in that old-school Bollywood way – we have bad cardboard boys who treat themselves in the third person; a soulful love song in which Hemant and his wife explore the sights of New Delhi; there are superficial references to Hemant as Gujarati – the emphasis comes and goes, but we see his wife making the posters; and least convincing of all is Ileana, wearing beautiful Salvar camisole as a morally upright investigative reporter – in one scene, she simply sneaks into a bank account room and examines their books.
The film projects the Big Bull as a savior, victim and occasional scammer – so there are countless references to the system and government that have rotted, and Hemant is a figure of Robin Hood for the middle class, a man who showed them how to dream big and change their destiny. Hemant’s actions are illegal, but the problem is not so much in his confused morals as in the weak banking network that allows him to thrive. This is repeated by several different characters, including Hemant – at one point he says:problem chief nahin hoon madam, problem humara political system hai. ‘For all its shortcomings, Hemant is positioned as Rockstar, Icarus, who just flew too high.
Props to Abhishek Bachchan for a sincere attempt to keep the broken script. Finally, there is a moment when his eyes, full of tears, reflect the grief of a man who has given up his own dreams. He still doesn’t understand why he has to pay. You can see an echo of his presentation in Guru – also for a man with insatiable ambition – but mostly Abhishek works with silk shirts, aviator glasses and a happy smile. Kuki makes him do some inexplicable things – like laughing out loud when his schemes work and he makes money. Why? This is not a villain from the 80’s. Sohum Shah, as Hemant’s brother Viren, also does his best, but most of all the film requires him to ask Hemant questions such as: Why are we here? Who are we meeting? He seems forever confused by his smarter brother. Also, why has Samir Sonny become an actor who plays dirty characters who smell right? Looks like he could have come out Mumbai saga and in this movie.
At one point in The big bulla press conference was held to demonstrate that one crore rupee in cash in 50 and 100 rupee banknotes could fit in two large suitcases. The conference ends in a pandemic with reporters crowding around suitcases and people giving the conference away dramatically. Wait, I wanted to shout – what about the money?
That’s when I realized how far I was from the movie.
You can watch The big bull on Disney + Hotstar.