By Pranjali Wakde
Money, Market and Melodrama – The Big Bull, unsuccessfully, tries to put an innocent face on the man behind the 1992 Indian securities scam.
We know the saying, ‘Every coin has two sides’ and we also know how it applies to everything, especially the story of villains. Even if the person is declared as a manipulating villain, they would have something to say about it. With this in mind, director Kookie Gulati decided to come up with an idea that will through at least a sympathetic, if not wholly innocent, light on the infamous 1992 Indian Securities scam and the name associated with it – Harshad Shantilal Mehta. The idea was translated into a Disney+ Hotstar original, ‘The Big Bull’, released on 8th April.
Born to a simple-minded, middle-class Gujarati family in Mumbai, Hemant Shah (Abhishek Bachchan) is introduced to his passion for shares and the stock market when his brother Viren (Sohum Shah) gets into crushing debt. He enters this dangerous world of stocks and shares, on the pretext of helping his brother, then to win his girlfriend, Priya (Nikita Dutta) father over and then, because his passion now has started bordering on obsession. Hemant is dedicated to what he does, even if it’s manipulating the stocks or exploiting the banks, leading him to become successful very quickly. However, every story like this – quick fame – has its downfall; Hemant’s story is no exception. Along with his cunning ways, ‘the big bull’s’ downfall comes in the form of Meera Rao (Ileana DCruz), a finance journalist. She’s determined to expose the truth of Hemant’s nouveau-riche life, which propels the film forward.
It is impressive to see how Director Gulati has incorporated the most important theme of the film – the concept of stocks and shares. Not many know how it works and therefore the director had an added challenge to water it down, at least enough to make the masses understand what it is exactly that Hemant is doing. The film succeeds in telling us about the share market, which is a plus point. Another plus point is the songs, not only are they well-placed but also suitable to the film’s mood.
The characters of the film provide a mixed performance. Abhishek Bachchan is impressive in some places and rather funny (remember the scene where he laughs maniacally… and unnecessarily?) in others. Ileana DCruz seems fitting as a finance journalist with a detective streak but is unconvincing as an old lady in the present timeline. Sohum Shah maintains his grip on his role as a dependable sidekick with quite a flair; it’s fascinating to see him as Viren Shah after Tumbbad. Saurabh Shukla as Manu Malpani, Supriya Pathak Shah as Hemant’s mother, Samir Soni, Mahesh Manjrekar and Ram Kapoor are compelling in whatever little screen time they get.
Unfortunately, the cons of the film are way more than the pros. The downfall of the film, just like Hemant’s, is that it is too fast to keep up as if it’s on fast forward. It is so unsettling to see, especially since the start of the film takes its own time to set the story up. Many storylines are introduced, but are either given an unsatisfactory ending or are never fleshed out properly in the first place. For example, no one knows about what happened with Hemant’s father – it is just alluded to in a nondescript scene. The same goes for Hemant’s consultancy – Mile High; it came into the story rather suddenly, with no origin and development. Equally cringe-worthy is Hemant’s romance with Priya – it seems forced into the film as if it’s a rule to have a heroine for the hero, even if she is just… there.
The film was inspired by true events – but how many of those true events were incorporated, who knows? The original story found Harshad Mehta to be a scheming market manipulator, whereas Hemant Shah was all about playacting as a messiah, manic laughing and repeating his redundant catchphrase, “I am and will always be the one and only, Big Bull”.
Rating – 2.5/5