The question isn’t whether you have seen last year’s most-watched and most-acclaimed series on Harshad Mehta, Hansal Mehta’s directorial tour de force The Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story. The point isn’t also where the Abhishek Bachchan-starrer The Big Bull figures on the comparison meter. For comparisons, though inevitable as also unfair, between a web series and a movie is like the famous apples and oranges analogy. So let’s look at The Big Bull through a fresh angle with fresh eyes.
Film: The Big Bull
Director: Kookie Gulati
Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Sohum Shah, Ileana D’Cruz, Saurabh Shukla, Ram Kapoor, Sameer Soni, Nikita Dutt, Mahesh Manjrekar and Supriya Pathak Kapoor
Sadly, even if one were to view Kookie Gulati’s film as standalone flick and shed all the biases we may nurse in favour of The Scam, The Big Bull is not in the least bullish. Yes it tracks the controversial stock-broker’s life, including the financial fraud he committed, which is anyway out in the public domain. His meteoric rise to riches and consequent downfall is indeed the stuff that should lend easily to cinematic adaptation. But as The Big Bull’s life unfolds (currently streaming on Disney Hotstar) what keeps you through the two-and-a-half- hour film is certainly not how well it has been adapted, rather quite the contrary. If as, The Big Bull aka Hemant Shah here tells us, “Paisa banana ek kala hai…” so is filmmaking!
Only here the film rushes through the most significant aspects of his life and what you see or get is mostly on the surface. Yes we learn of the obvious. How he took advantage of insider trading and exploited loopholes in our banking system. But you don’t quite get the real sense of the man and his razor-sharp mind, who ruled stocks in late 1980s and even earned the sobriquet “Amitabh Bachchan of stock market.” The real Amitabh Bachchan’s son Abhishek Bachchan does whatever he can to fit into the part of this ambitious shrewd man, who manipulated his way to the top before his megalomania took over.
Wish the director had thought of some more ingenious ways to depict his overweening pride and ego, than the intermittent bouts of manic laughter he is saddled with. Another let down is how the impressive line-up of actors is unable to make an impact. With sketchy parts fine actors like Supriya Pathak, Saurabh Shukla, Mahesh Manjerkar and Ram Kapoor are almost wasted. Even Sohum Shah playing the younger brother Viren Shah, though effective, is nowhere close to being stellar as we are used to seeing him in movies like Tumbbad. Heroines are on board, one Nikita Dutt to up the romantic quotient and the other, Ileana D’Cruz as journalist-author is crucial to the storyline. Indeed, the part of Ileana D’Cruz as business journalist Meera Rao is essential to the narrative. It is she who busts his bubble and later on goes to not only write a book on him, but also somewhat empathise with him.
Alas, though that is the film’s intention too, to stir our sympathetic chords, the tragic denouement fails to shake us. Even climactic moments like the famous ‘infamous’ scene where he calls out the Prime Minister of the country and shows how Rs 1 crore can fit into a bag lack bite. The only reason why you won’t reach for the remote in this fictional retelling is for the story of real Harshad Mehta is not just a cautionary tale of ambition and greed, but far too engaging. Wish the treatment, script and dialogues had done justice to both the manoeuvrings of the real man and the calibre of the reel actor. A villain or victim, whatever may be your verdict on Harshad Mehta, a clever man like him certainly deserved a clever film.