Just minutes into the movie, an advert for PayTM is shoved on us.
“You can do anything if you have PayTM,” announces a pesky girl, as her grumpy brother fights his controlling father's efforts to stifle his Mumbai dreams. And just as she promises, his move to the big city is effortless, forcing us to instantly disconnect with Rizwan Ahmad’s (Rohan Mehra) journey.
It's a movie you are making, director Gauravv K Chawla, not a commercial for PayTM. Unfortunately, the damage is done.
So for the rest of the first half which is a drag anyway, punctured further by inane song sequences shot in rich, slo-mo frames, we try to revive our interest in Rizwan. But how do we ignore the fact that he's armed with PayTM to tackle any sticky situation?
Thankfully, the director doesn’t use that tactic again. Apart from hiring part of the famous Sacred Games cast (Saif Ali Khan and Radhika Apte), he doesn't fully redeem himself either. He pretty much waits for the duo to do damage control, which they do. But he hands new starkid-on-the-block, Rohan Mehra, the sluggish first-half to hook us in. Alas, he possesses neither charm nor talent to SELL us his "small-town" rags-to-riches story.
But if you manage to make it to the second half, you'd watch Saif pull out a few tricks, to lend menace and madness to Shakun Kothari, conniving businessman, adept at manipulating the stock market.
However, a wardrobe of white kurta-pyjamas and crisp formals and heavy botox aren't able to lend credibility and charm to Shakun. Saif has his moments though! It’s when he entertains a rickety room full of officers with a story about how a Gujarati businessman outsmarts a Bengali scholar, you marvel at his ease and authority. Or, when he hands his aged rival four options to quit the race, only to be told that he’ll do the choosing. Or, when he aces an auction.
Despite a shoddy sketch that often hands him cringe-worthy moments, Saif manages a crackling act, except when he attempts to win over his little girls with his Robinhood image. “I don’t know whether I’m right or wrong, but I’m a superhero,” he announces to his giggly girls while hugging a Batman toy for support.
Shakun, apart from a thali at a tiny Gujarati joint and an oft-repeated story of poverty and toys, doesn't allow us into his past or what sparks his greed for all things fancy.
While writers Nikkhil Advani, Parveez Sheikh, Aseem Arora are so caught up in trying to outsmart each other and impress the audience, they weave together a plot that’s horribly predictable. The blame partly falls on the tell-all trailer as well.
They also fail to inject meaning or purpose into either of their main men. Instead, they are left to choose between Usain Bolt and Mo Farah, to set their KPIs.
And caught in this twisted drama are two gorgeous women – Chitrangada Singh and Radhika Apte. While one struggles to emote, the other lights up the screen. Alas, their magic, or the lack of it, doesn't uplift the film.
Rizwan tries to seduce us with his dimples and Shakun with his greed, but neither wins us over. Rohan's earnest, no doubt. But when pitched against Saif, his act falters. His staccato delivery and wooden expressions add to the mess.
At 137 minutes, Baazaar wants to be more than just a trade market drama. It wants its main guys to dance and romance, crucially derailing the fun proceedings that come at the fag end. The winning scene, however, goes to a real estate agent, who cashes in on Rizwan’s sudden fame to find new tenants.
Unfortunately, Baazaar is unable to cash in on that genius. Guess not everyone can work the Martin Scorsese magic.