What is the story about?
Hemant Shah, a small-time employee at a school, is content with his lower-middle-class existence until his younger brother Viren is at the mercy of a money-lender. Hemant puts all his acumen into the stock market and treats it as his cash cow to bail his family out of the crisis. He succeeds and even turns a stockbroker soon. Such is the intoxication of quick money and fame that Hemant is busy biting more than what he can chew, milking the many loopholes in the Indian banking system. Law is quick to catch up with him and so is the financial journalist Meera Rao who checkmates Hemant’s ascent.
The Big Bull, the heavily fictionalised version of a former stockbroker, scamster Harshad Mehta’s life, was always going to be the underdog while trying to match up to Hansal Mehta’s riveting web show (Scam 1992) based on the same figure. The film, headlined by a formidable Abhishek Bachchan, is a rather sketchy take on the colourful life of a man whose fall was as staggering as his rise. Surprisingly, despite the many dramatic arcs in the life story of Harshad Mehta, The Big Bull leaves you cold and unmoved.
The feather-light, simplistic treatment of a complex scam, the poorly etched characters, and the absence of a strong dramatic hook don’t let you fully invest in the story. The film struggles to find a soul or do justice to the vastness of its subject and the eventful timeline. Worse, it desperately paints the life of a criminal in an empathetic light, shifting the blame onto the system and nearly justifying his misdoings, even labelling him a ‘dreamer’.
Intentional or not, the trajectory of The Big Bull largely resembles the lead actor’s film Guru (loosely inspired by the life of Dhirubhai Ambani) while mirroring the ascent of a flawed man who uses systemic flaws to scale newer peaks. Though the film does a decent job in establishing Hemant’s spectacular rise, the character’s response to his fall is more of a meek surrender. The film’s biggest undoing is its climax – it ends with a whimper and fails to lend any context, larger meaning to the story.
Abhishek Bachchan is aptly cast in the shoes of a stockbroker who’s consumed by the intoxication of fame and monetary greed. He gets the film’s most intriguing character, absolutely relishing its greys and rising to the occasion even when the writing lets him down. Ileana’s character as a journalist Meera Rao, modelled on Sucheta Dalal, is the film’s biggest disappointment. It mistakes pompous one-liners for strong characterisation – it scores high on style but falls short on meat.
Nikita Dutta, in the role of the scamster’s love interest-turned-wife, is very pretty though the same can’t be told about her relevance in the story. Ram Kapoor doesn’t have much to do in a contrived appearance as a flamboyant criminal lawyer. Sohum Shah makes the most of the film’s edgy moments to deliver a measured, impactful performance. The likes of Saurabh Shukla, Samir Soni, Sumit Vats, Mahesh Manjrekar and even Supriya Pathak Kapur are cast in unmemorable parts that lack depth.
Music & Other Departments
Composer Gaurav Dasgupta, Wily Frenzy and Mehul Vyas dole out decent numbers that don’t fare too badly in terms of situational relevance, though it’s Sandeep Shirodkar’s stirring score that registers a better impact. The Big Bull does an underwhelming job in visually representing the late 80s and early 90s of Bombay. The dialogues are over-simplistic and skewed in favour of the protagonist. Even at 153 minutes, the film doesn’t greatly impress you with its detailing and the absence of an emotional thread hurts its cause.
- Abhishek Bachchan’s performance
- A not-so-bad first hour
- Unimpactful narration
- Poor characterisation
- Dull climax
Did I enjoy it?
Do I recommend it?