Review: Abhishek Bachchan’s The Big Bull Is an Exasperating Watch
If you've seen Scam 1992 then the comparisons are inevitable. The format is different especially considering that Scam 1992 could give us all the intimate details of Harshad Mehta's life because of the multiple episodes at its disposal. The two-and-a-half hour runtime of Kookie Gulati's The Big Bull aims to give us a sneak peek into the life and times of the scamster.
Hemant Shah‘s (played by Abhishek Bachchan) eyes light up every time he talks money. He wants to make it big and do it in record time. The ambitious broker who aims to be India’s first billionaire is clearly modelled on Harshad Mehta but, for some reason, is never named so.
“The film is somewhat inspired by true events and is more a work of fiction" - the disclaimer greets us as we settle down to watch The Big Bull on Disney+ Hotstar. Mehta’s terrific rise, the multi-crore scam that made headlines, manipulating the stock market, and his eventual but inevitable tragic fall... the familiarity to the arc and predictability in the telling keep the proceedings jaded.
Trapped by the requirements of formula filmmaking, The Big Bull starts overstating the case from the very first scene itself. Ileana D'Cruz as the journalist who unearthed the truth is seen addressing an audience with two tacky strands of white hair framing her model face. It’s 2020, and her character Meera Rao is recalling the events which occurred almost two decades ago, but apart from the white 'reverse antennas', it appears that age has been pretty kind to her .
“Uske ameer banne se pehle uski soch ameer ho gayi thi" (His mentality became rich before he did). With that, we flashback to 1987 and a young Hemant Shah is listening, wide-eyed, to the secret to making a fortune at the stock market. Decidedly captivated, Hemant, along with his younger brother Viren (Sohum Shah) begins to learn the ropes.
Nikita Dutta as Hemant’s love interest has a few scenes along with a badly placed song that strikes a discordant note bang in the middle of the film. Sohum Shah, playing the younger brother, who is at odds with Hemant’s nefarious ways, is mostly reduced to sharing the frame as an agitated bystander allowed only a couple of lines. Supriya Pathak, Mahesh Manjrekar, Ram Kapoor, Shishir Sharma, Samir Soni, and Saurabh Shukla also get to make an appearance but exist solely to prop up Abhishek Bachchan. It’s understandable Hemant Shah is obviously the hero of the story, but by reducing everyone else to cardboard cut-outs the impact gets completely diluted.
Abhishek tries hard, but his body language and accent is inconsistent. The narrative starts feeling too lengthy, too early, and the dramatic, high pitched Bollywood style storytelling compromises subtlety and nuance for filmy dialogues and blaring background score. Even the Mumbai skyline of the 90s doesn’t feel authentic.
Quite an exasperating watch, The Big Bull feels more like the scam as compared to the compelling narrative of Scam 1992 that brought to life the real life story of Harshad Mehta with compelling honesty.
Rating: 1.5 Quints out of 5