A young, small town ambitious lad reaches Bombay with just one goal. To be noticed by and work with Shakun Kothari. And he rises to such instant money and fame that it takes one move by the master to bring the apprentice down. Or does he? This beautifully produced film falls flat on its face because it has very little substance. So many films to be inspired from - Wall Street to The Big Short and even Margin Call - and the story is like Gaflat Bollywood’s first attempt to make a film on the Stock Market scam. Should have gone straight to Netflix or Amazon, perhaps.
The production value of this film are high. They make you believe there are places in the city where the men’s restrooms are fancy enough to have conversations, that rich people in Bombay have swimming pools, that people are still using Blackberry phones, that the Jains chant the forgiveness chant ‘Micchami Dukhdam’ all the time instead of the last day of their holy month of Paryushan (like Lent), that the only way to get to Bombay from Allahabad is by a flight...
The rest, is a horrendous bunch of cliches: a small town chap making it in the big bad city, against all odds. That a gorgeous girl at work suddenly takes interest in the small town lad, gets hot and heavy with him and even falls in love with him. He’s so smart with the stocks that he falls for ‘tips’ that come his way and he is suddenly doing ‘insider trading’ without ever being an ‘insider’. Trouble is that we have seen such fabulous films like Margin Call, The Big Short and even the old but gold Wall Street, that we just cannot buy Rizwan Ahmad as someone with street smarts. In fact, this film has practically the same story as the Bollywood film called Gaflat, made on the scandal connected with Harshad Mehta.
It’s hard to swallow that a gorgeous woman like Radhika Apte (who is made to wear strangest, the most inappropriate clothes at work) will suddenly get hot and heavy with a lad who has just had a coffee someone spat into. Why? Because she’s so impressed with his intelligence. By that logic, the boss (Denzil Smith) who gives him a job should also be getting hot and heavy with him, no? It’s such a cliched fantasy of the writer and it has failed the Bechdel test on many levels…
What’s awful is that the character breaks the fourth wall and talks to the audience ever so often. And it’s not like Kevin Spacey in the TV show House of Cards. It just comes at you to explain things like, ‘This is where it all started’ or something just as mundane. And the poor small town chap Rizwan Ahmad (played by Rohan Mehra, who looks mostly unwashed through the film) makes a serious face to talk to the audience. The inanities are so groan-worthy, you actually wait for Chitrangada Singh - who can barely move her face when she speaks - to say anything, so you can guffaw.
Saif Ali Khan plays Shakun Kothari, a ruthless money hungry Gujjubhai who doesn’t care for ethics because he knows everyone has a price. Despite his horrible attempt to speak in a Gujarati accent, to his credit, Saif Ali Khan does the best he can. His dialogue too is rife with cliches, including him calling his wife ‘ben’ (sister). Manish Choudhary gets to play the SEBI guy investigating the economic crimes and is made to run a red thread through pins on a board (connecting the dots literally, and done to death by crime shows) where articles about Shakun Kothari and pictures are placed. Ugh! Think of something else!
If you can forget how polished Saif Ali Khan really comes across, his casting is actually spot on. He wears his clothes well. But ever so often you wish you were watching him play Sartaj Singh instead and that this film had more substance and could be seen as a Netflix or an Amazon show instead. Even the Korean shows like Stranger where there is an obvious nexus between real estate tycoons and the politicians is unraveled by the good cops/prosecutors unearths the plot slowly and with surprises. Misaeng is about a guy who plays a board game (who does that?!) and applies the lessons to the stock trading. If they had to there is enough fodder for thought and to be inspired by. Alas, they just stick to writing a cliched film of which only the last twenty minutes of the hurt apprentice avenging his wrongs to bring the master down actually mean something. In fact the movie which is narrated from the open window where the lad stands on the ledge wondering whether to jump or not to jump is so boring, you wish someone from the audience could enter his space (fourth wall be damned and all that) and just push him off. It would save us the cliched, tedious watch.
(this review appears on www.nowrunning.com )