The comparison of The Big Bull with the OTT series Scam 1992 was preordained. Will that impact the film experience? Maybe; but there is definitely an upside. As The Big Bull is slightly over 150 minutes, viewers who have seen the series can easily fill in more details and read between layers from the series
Movie: The Big Bull
Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Ileana D”Cruz
Director: Kookie Gulati
Abhishek Bachchan is back with the latest addition to his list of films tagged under the category of ‘inspired’ biographies. The Big Bull revolves around the story of Hemant Shah (Abhishek Bachchan), a stock broker, who in early 90’s became a doyen of media and the stock markets before courting controversy and becoming a name that was synonymous with financial scams in the country.
No points for guessing that the story is loosely based on the life of Harshad Mehta, through the vantage of journalist Sucheta Dalal who uncovered the scam through her investigative reportage. Although, the makers have preferred to stay clear of the factual names of people and brands. Consequently, the comparison of The Big Bull with the OTT series Scam 1992 was preordained.
Will that impact the film experience? Maybe; but there is definitely an upside. As The Big Bull is slightly over 150 minutes, viewers who have seen the series can easily fill in more details and read between layers from the series. The only caveat here is: The Big Bull is ‘inspired’; which means there are elements of fiction infused.
So coming back to the film. The story is set in the 90s when the country was reeling under an economic crisis and looking at liberalisation of the economy. The Big Bull scripts the rise and fall of Hemant Shah, who despite hailing from a humble background realises the pulse and knack to manipulate scrips and becomes the bear of the market. His meteoric rise is a result of manipulating the loopholes of the Indian banking sector and his eye for picking penny stocks for a pump-and-dump exercise. Soon, he became the king of the market and by 1992 emerged as one of the biggest advance tax payers of the country.
His strategy generates exponential returns in quick succession drawing attention to his style of trading. Soon, the greed for growth exposes the fissures in his ecosystem and network. With this, the reign of The Big Bull ends with a thud.
Directed by Kookie Gulati, The Big Bull is gripping in the first-half but loses momentum in the second. The film was planned for a theatrical release but due to the pandemic was fetched by an OTT. Therefore, the screenplay does reveal signs of reluctant budging for theatrical audience.
The makers have clearly avoided over-the-top dialogue and drastic makeovers of the characters which is commendable. The writer has not made any efforts to justify the character or to portray Hemant as a criminal. It’s simply a depiction of a character; a man with a dream who doesn’t think of illegalities to reach his objective.
However, romance gets a moment of limelight and [of course] steals away the grip of the film with romantic song. Another flaw of the script is the unrealistic portrayal of how an investigative reporter functions. If getting into an audit room of a bank was this easy for a journalist and understanding the books through glances, we would be looking at breaking stories every now and then.
In the performance department, however, the film doesn’t disappoint. Abhishek Bachchan’s backstory begins with Carryminati (Ajey Nagar) ‘Ek Kahaani Hai…’ which is the elixir of the character played by the actor. Abhishek’s portrayal of Hemant, reminds us of his craftsmanship in the film Guru, yet the two characters have a distinctive personality. Abhishek choses to show the variation in the demeanour of the character from a simple, innocent and enthused man to a person drunk in greed for growth and manipulation.
As an actor, Abhishek adapts! He has taken care of minute details without adding heavy accent or eye hurting body language for the character. He definitely keeps you engrossed with his subtle yet impactful performance. After the initial few seconds of the film, you tend to understand the maturity with which he has handled the grey shades of his character. This has always been a strong domain for Abhishek, yet he has been one of the most under-rated actors in his genre.
Sohum Shah blends into his role of Hemant Shah’s brother Viren Shah. His hairstyle, costumes and overall depiction of Viren is like a hot knife on a butter. Nikita Dutta as Priya Shah is convincing, simple and plays her part well. Ileana D’Cruz as journalist (Sucheta Dalal) plays to the strength of the character. She comes across as strong headed, sceptical, bright and audacious. Supriya Pathak and Ram Kapoor have little screen-space but when has that stopped them from delivering their best? The background score is edgy and keeps up to the pace and treatment of the film. Music, though, is strictly okay.
In a nutshell, Abhishek Bachchan’s The Big Bull is a one-time watch as he portrays the character of a man who may have been the architect of one of India’s biggest financial scams of the 90s. However, the film also highlights how the man taught Indian middle-class to dream when they desperately needed it. As Hemant says: ‘I am the pied piper. I am the seller of dreams’.
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