The Big Bull
Duration: 02 Hrs 30 Mins
Genre: Biography, Crime, Drama
Director: Kookie Gulati
Writer: Arjun Dhawan, Kookie Gulati, Ritesh Shah
Producers: Ajay Devgn, Ravindra Mankame, Aish Pandit, Anand Pandit, Sanjay Paraswani, Kumar Mangat Pathak, Vikrant Sharma, Sahil Singh
Music: Gourov Dasgupta, Wily Frenzy, Sandeep Shirodkar, Mehul Vyas
Cinematography: Vishnu Rao
Editing: Dharmendra Sharma
Art Direction: RajuKumar Sahani, Anupamey Sawale
Release Date: 08 April 2021 (India)
Released On: Disney+ Hotstar
Star Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Ileana D'Cruz, Samir Soni, Sanjeev Pandey, Srestha Banerjee, Sorabh Chauhan, Nikita Dutta, Niloy Rashid Jaki, Ram Kapoor, Aryan Khanna, R. Bhakti Klein, Durgesh Kumar, Jitendra Kumar, Mahesh Manjrekar, Sanjay Paraswani, Supriya Pathak, Lekha Prajapati, Sohum Shah, Saurabh Shukla
Plot: ‘The Big Bull’ is based on the life of stockbroker Harshad Mehta ('protagonist' renamed as Hemant Shah) - a small-time stockbroker, who manipulates the loopholes in the country’s archaic banking system to create a massive bull run on the stock exchange.
Hemant Shah (Abhishek Bachchan) is a Gujarati man in Mumbai who speaks next to no Gujarati. He lives a middle-class life with his brother (Sohum Shah) and mother (Supriya Pathak). First to clear his brother's debt, then to impress his girlfriend's father, Hemant Shah figures out ways to sink his feet into the world of stocks and shares. But when the Indian economy was taking its big leap towards liberalization, it was only a matter of time before Hemant Shah’s dream run ended in a nightmare.
Review: A streaming series, ‘Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story’, based on the same subject, was released to widespread acclaim last year. Told successfully before, there is little we don’t know already about India’s multi-crore stock market ‘scam’. Therefore, co-writer and director Kookie Gulati had a massive task at hand to crunch the highs and lows of an enigmatic character, into a two–and-a-half-hour-long feature film.
The story begins in 2020, when journalist Meera Rao (played by Ileana D'Cruz) at the launch of her book ‘The Big Bull’, narrates the story of Hemant Shah, who revolutionized the stock market in the 80s and 90s. Along with his brother and a trusted aide, he takes on the established system, becomes one of the richest persons in the country in a really short period of time, and helps many others make money in the stock market. The story then navigates to the 80s when Hemant is still a salaried man and lives in a rented room in a chawl with his brother and their mother.
Though writers Arjun Dhawan and Kookie Gulati manage to build intrigue and tension around various episodes of Hemant Shah’s run-ins with police, politicians, and media, as he brazenly goes about manipulating each and every one, the film succeeds only partially, as the real story is far more fascinating and exciting. This film is rather a fictionalized and Bollywoodised version of the story of the very infamous stockbroker Harshad Mehta, and because of the benchmark set by Hansal Mehta's web series Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story, the film falls short. However, some scenes stand out for their confrontational value. Also, non-linear storytelling helps in breaking the monotony of repetitive conflicts.
When we are talking about a Bollywood story, how can we not have a love angle, despite it having a financial setting? Oh, we have it all here: A man falling for a girl of his locality, her parents' conditions for her prospective groom, and him doing it all to get the girl. From a love song to a rap song by YouTuber CarryMinati and Wily Frenzy, the film has it all!
Abhishek Bachchan’s character could have been done with so much more depth. The actor is believable as a stockbroker and efficiently portrays the rags-to-riches story of the protagonist. But his appearance remains quite constant from his youth to middle-age, making it hard to believe that his character has indeed come a long way. Despite this, he delivers a decent performance.
However, his chemistry with Nikita Dutta is sorely lacking. Nikita Dutta as Priya Shah doesn't leave a lasting impression and just looks pretty on screen. Their scenes and an odd love-song shot in Delhi, 'Ishq Namaza' in the voice of Ankit Tiwari, comes across as misplaced in the narrative, and only slows down the pace further.
Ileana D’Cruz, as the journalist Meera Rao puts up an honest performance. While Ram Kapoor as the big-shot lawyer Ashok Mirchandani plays his part to perfection, Supriya Pathak barely gets enough scenes to make a mark. Sohum Shah as Hemant’s younger brother Viren is decent, and so are most of the seasoned character actors like Saurabh Shukla and Mahesh Manjrekar.
The film’s dialogues are quite ineffective. Most of the dialogues don’t propel the characters to make them look powerful, even when the scenes demand so.
Also, the production value of ‘The Big Bull’ falters at places and it is evident in a few CGI scenes. Pratham Mehta's camerawork is average and has nothing new to offer. While it is always a delight to see Mumbai when it was Bombay, the cinematography of the few south Mumbai locations is just about alright.
Even Dharmendra Sharma's editing scissors seem to be blunt as it fails to add more tension to a handful of well-written scenes.
Overall, ‘The Big Bull’ lags behind in writing as it ends up Bollywoodising the story in an attempt to satisfy the taste buds of Bolly freaks. While the web series lets us decide whether Harshad was a victim or a criminal, the film shows him as a hero. Watch it if you are an Abhishek Bachchan fan, but don’t let the stock of your expectations rise too high!