Bazaar Review (SPOILERS): Most Boring and Unsympathetic Hero Ever, Why Couldn’t it Be About Saif Instead?

I already put up a No SPOILERS review, you can read that if you want, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  This is such a bad movie, no reason to avoid spoiling yourself.

Whole plot in two paragraphs:

Rohan Mehra is a young ambitious kid from Allahabad.  He goes against his father’s advice and comes to Bombay dreaming of working for his hero, Saif Ali Khan, also a Gujurati who came to Bombay with nothing and made it big.  He talks his way into a job at a brokerage partly because Radhike Apte (the cool hard to read female broker) helps him a little.  Meanwhile, Saif is trying to manipulate stocks to artificially fall so he can buy them.  His plan succeeds, and coincidentally the man who owns all the stocks is on Rohan’s cold call list.  Rohan calls him, convinces him to sell, and Radhike buys, his first big sale.  He and Radhike go out that night to celebrate and start a relationship.  She gets him into a party where he meets and impresses Saif with a prediction about stock the next day.  Saif gives him a massive amount to play around with, his first stock buy fails, Radhike gives him an illegal tip and his next buy hits big.  Saif starts mentoring Rohan and Radhike, he and his wife Chitrangada take them under their wing.  Even agree to host Rohan’s sister’s sangeet.  And then Saif tells Rohan he is going to buy a telecom company under his name, be the silent investor and make Rohan the face, and they are going to get the new government license.  Rohan tells his new brother-in-law to invest in the company.

And then it all falls apart when they don’t get the license.  Rohan is arrested and the government investigators convince him Saif manipulated this whole thing.  Rohan confronts Saif who admits the truth.  He short sold the stock knowing it would fall and made a profit.  And he avoided prosecution by making Rohan the face.  And he got a percentage as a broker for helping the other 3 companies get their license.  He also tells Rohan he was set up from the beginning, Radhike was manipulating him on Saif’s orders, although she later claimed to have fallen in love with him for real, and if Rohan goes after Saif, Radhike will fall too.  Rohan considers suicide, then decides to take Saif down instead even if it means hurting Radhike.  He goes to the government and tells them he is sure Saif is sending the pay off by train in diamonds to the telecom minister.  They find the diamonds, go to arrest Saif, and Rohan reveals that it was Chitrangada who tipped them off, and she leaves Saif with their two daughters.  Months later, Radhike meets Rohan at a cafe and admits she still loves him, he has no reaction.  Saif is released on bail, comes home to find the house deserted and his family gone, and immediately picks up the phone to start making deals.

Image result for bazaar film poster

(The hero is so boring, he didn’t even get a poster)

 

So, here’s the first problem.  Rohan and Radhike’s characters are boring boring boring.  Radhike especially is just what the plot wants her to be.  We have no idea what her family background is, why she is in the city, how she became a female trader, why she has an endless supply of sleek short skirted business wear, any of that.  Rohan, we know he wants to come to Bombay and be rich, but we don’t really know why for that either.  Does he have a deep-seated class insecurity?  Was his family poor and struggling in his youth and he never got over that?  Or is it just consumerism, an obsession with fancy clothes and new cars?  Most of all, we have truly no idea why Rohan and Radhike are together.  All we see them do is have bitter brittle conversations about work, and sex.  They never have one personal interaction, never share a joke, never do anything that makes us feel like they are real people.  When Radhike is revealed as having been playing Rohan at the start my reaction was “wait, is this supposed to surprise the audience?  Or Rohan?  what the heck did he think was happening when this woman offers him a job, sex, an introduction to his hero, and an illegal stock tip all within the course of a week?  Obviously there was something in it for her!”  I never believed in their “true love” because I was never shown their “true love”.

And then there’s the other problem, that our hero is a sociopath.  This movie is a remake of Wall Street plot by plot and sometimes scene by scene.  But it fails because it doesn’t understand the character of our hero, the Charlie Sheen character.  In the original, Charlie Sheen dreams of making it big in the stockmarket, blah blah, same thing.  He is discovered and mentored by Michael Douglas, who also sets him up with his sleek sophisticated girlfriend Darryl Hannah.  Everything seems perfect, and Michael is like a second father to him, replacing his real father, the hardworking respected union leader of the groundcrew at an airline Martin Sheen.  And then the airline where his father works is going to be sold, Charlie with Michael’s money buys the airline (partly because Martin helps get the unions on their side).  And then Michael sells him out, sells the airline.  It’s not that he is betraying Charlie and losing him money, it’s that he is betraying all the workers represented by Charlie’s father, the little people whose lives are being ruined just so Michael can make a little more money.  And Charlie realizes how wrong he is, realizes his relationship with Darryl was just another game Michael set up, that his wealth and fancy suits and everything else are all empty.  He voluntarily agrees to go to jail and to get Michael on tape admitting his own crimes because it is the right thing to do, the moral thing to do, not out of vengeance for losing, but because he now sees it is more than just a game, Michael with his help hurt actual people.  And at the end of the film, Charlie’s parents drive him to jail, where he will pay his debt to society.

The point of the original is that Michael Douglas is a sociopath who only sees numbers and money, not people.  Charlie is sucked in by the superficial thrill of it all, just like all of American society was in the 80s, but because he is not a sociopath, once he sees how it is affecting real people, he reverts to being normal, and understands in a rush that his whole life is false, his relationship with Darryl is shallow and empty, his clothes his car his everything is empty.  What matters are the people in his life and the true relationships he has.

Now, in this one, Rohan Mehra I guess still only sees it as a game?  He takes down Michael Douglas in order to “win”, not because there is a larger justice and morality in the world.  And he “wins” in the end, he is sitting in a cafe, having humiliated Radhike by not even responding to her confession, instead of being driven to jail by his parents having made peace with them and regained a true sense of self.

It’s not just at the end, through out the film it feels like the writers themselves just don’t have the ability to care for people.  Or think that is something the audience will like/understand.  The big thing that is supposed to be the equivalent of Martin Sheen (Charlie’s father) in the original film having a heart attack after losing his entire pension fund and betraying his union brothers is that Rohan advised his soon-to-be brother-in-law to invest all his savings in Rohan’s company.  But, first, this is a 25 year old, his life savings are not going to be that much, he can start over.  And second, he was investing the savings so he could make enough money to start a computer center.  Rohan is standing there in the middle of a high rise apartment in Bombay.  One months’ rent would be enough for them to start that computer center.  Why doesn’t he just give them the money?  Or pay back their “life savings”?  There is just such an enormous divide between rich and poor in India, Rohan’s success at that level means his family doesn’t have to play the stock market, he can just give them the money they need.  But he doesn’t, which kind of makes it seem like this character isn’t that great of a guy after all.

(See?  Even in the “sad” song, it’s all about their little pointless romantic problems, not about how their stock manipulation ruined thousands of lives)

Saif’s character could have had similar flaws, but Saif makes it work.  In the hands of a less good less experienced actor, he would have come off as a megalomaniac who only sees people as an extension of himself.  Which is boring boring boring, because then there is no emotional investment in any moment he is onscreen.  But instead, Saif made him into a complex character who is driven by ambition and competition almost against his own will.

Part of that is the film itself being a bit unsure of if they want to make him a villain or a hero.  For the stock market to be meaningful, it means he has to come in without inherited money.  And a hero without inherited money/position is immediately relatable especially in India.  So we have a poor boy who came to Bombay with nothing and worked his way up and now is playing games and beating all the smooth folks with the inherited wealth.  When his friends sneer at him and call him “Gujju”, you are immediately on his side.  They even give him a dialogue explaining his position, after he manipulates the stock for a pharmaceutical company, he is confronted about it and points out the company itself is all a game, they only became successful by sending out aggressive sales teams and tricking doctors into prescribing their drugs, he is just doing a trick at a higher level.  Which is absolutely correct, the stock market is a game but the companies that are being bought and sold are all a game too.  The moral high ground, of course, rests with the actual people being affected, but this movie never takes us to them, never talks about the common people who are buying over priced drugs which is what makes the stocks valuable, and without that, Saif seems no more amoral than anyone else.

The one area where he is definitely “bad” is in his relationship with his wife.  But even there the film isn’t quite sure what it wants to say.  We learn in a quick flash of backstory that he married very young to his boss’ rich daughter and got a small diamond factor as a dowry which founded his fortune.  Their marriage was founded on her being in love and him being in love/looking out for his main chance.  And then in one of his first scenes, we see him pick up a random woman at a bar and offer her money to sleep with him.  It’s sleazy on multiple levels, cheating on his wife, picking up this woman not as a person but as a trophy (it’s explicitly just because his friend says he won’t be able to), and of course paying for sex which is always demeaning to both people involved.  When we first see him with his wife, he is incapable of stopping himself from flirting right in front of her, even when she threatens to leave him if it continues.  But then later we see him being sweet with their daughters and her smiling as she watches, we see them flirting at weddings, and generally happy.

If this were performed by less good actors it would seem like the script was confused.  But they are able to add layers to the interactions, and instead what it feels like is a long marriage and a long relationship between two people who know each other well.  He will stray, and she knows it.  And then he will come back.  Sometimes it is good, sometimes it is bad, but it is always a marriage.  It’s a fascinating relationship, especially with her being the one to trap him and turn him in in the end.  But the film isn’t good enough to contain that relationship, can’t quite understand it.  Even this fails in the end, both in terms of the plot and Saif’s character.

I found it completely logical with what we know and saw that Chitraganda would turn in Saif.  She had a conversation with him earlier where she expressed fear that he was losing himself.  She would turn him in not out of revenge, but out of love, that she thinks he has gone too far and is damaging himself more than others with all the betrayals.  But I don’t believe, based on what we have seen, that she would take his daughters away from him forever.  And I don’t believe that his reaction to finding them gone would be to go back to work, rather than being finally broken as he loses the one thing he always really needed, his family.  From the characters as we know them, Chitraganda would stand by and bring the kids to visit him in jail.  And Saif would do focus on his family over his business until he was able to win them back.

It’s just, so frustrating!  Because there is this good performance and interesting character, but instead of focusing on that, we have to keep going over to stupid Rohan Mehra and his stupid not-really-problems and the complete lack of any greater meaning or depth in his storyline.  STUPID!

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2 thoughts on “Bazaar Review (SPOILERS): Most Boring and Unsympathetic Hero Ever, Why Couldn’t it Be About Saif Instead?

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