The Big Bull Movie Review: Abhishek Bachchan makes a mark, the film doesn't
The Big Bull definitely had the potential to be another retelling of a fascinating story of one man who went against the system only to be consumed by its vagaries. However, it falls short
The 2020 lockdown made us learn many new things. Aside from cooking, baking, and other artistic endeavours, a lot of us also became stockbroking experts thanks to Hansal Mehta's Scam 1992. The series made words like bank receipts, dilution of shares, bull and bear commonplace. Now, along comes Kookie Gulati’s The Big Bull. Of course, there will be comparisons to the series, but in many ways, Scam 1992 ran to ensure The Big Bull flies. Unfortunately, the film and its protagonist Hemant Shah (Abhishek Bachchan) meet the fate of the mythical Icarus.
The film is set in the late 80s and early 90s, and Kookie treats The Big Bull with the cinematic sensibilities of that era. While this tone admittedly works in places, Hemant Shah’s rise is peppered with one too many fiery punch lines. We can only handle so many variations of “Mujhe dheere chalna nahi aata” and “Mere wajah se poora desh paisa kamaaya” in a 150-odd minute film. Even Hemant's forced evil laughter, whenever he does something devious, is terribly kitsch.
The writers also cram the screenplay a bit too much. From a clerk job, Hemant becomes a jobber, a stockbroker, a consultant, and the highest tax-payer in the country so fast that we can’t really empathise with his inevitable fall. It all comes too easy for Hemant and his brother, Viren (Sohum Shah). The lack of a strong antagonist is problematic too. Hemant is only really up against his own inflated ego. Also, the whitewashing and almost deifying of Hemant Shah is a downer.
Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Ileana D’Cruz, Sohum Shah, Nikita Dutta
Director: Kookie Gulati
Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar
One of the more interesting aspects of The Big Bull is the romantic angle, which is surprisingly pragmatic. However, it feels incomplete. The same holds for the arc of reporter Meera Rao (an impressive Ileana D’Cruz), who plays the narrator of The Big Bull. She is the financial reporter whose words take down the entire Hemant Shah empire. But her investigation into the scam and the fallout thereafter is unimaginative and not exactly as exciting as the music tries to make it. I particularly liked the music of The Big Bull, especially Carry Minati’s rap number that infuses a much-needed freshness to the proceedings.
The film is mounted on the able shoulders of Abhishek Bachchan, who gives it all for a role that is bound to draw comparisons. If there is one thing that has been constant in Abhishek’s life, it has been comparisons. First, with his legendary father, Amitabh Bachchan. Then, even his critically-acclaimed roles in Yuva and Raavan, were compared to Madhavan and Vikram, who played these roles in the Tamil versions. And now, Abhishek is faced with the unenviable prospect of following Pratik Gandhi’s performance in Scam 1992. While Abhishek is effective as Hemant Shah, the overall generic nature of the proceedings pull him down.
Parallels to Scam 1992 aside, The Big Bull actually has more in common with Mani Ratnam’s Guru — right from Abhishek Bachchan’s gait and intense looks to the proverbial rise and fall. If there was a Madhavan in Guru, here, we have an Ileana. If there was a Mithun Chakraborty locking horns with Abhishek in the 2007 film, here we have a Saurabh Shukla. The Big Bull has a Nikita Dutta in the place of Aishwarya Rai. A court sequence in Guru is replaced with a press meet in The Big Bull. Just like Guru, The Big Bull too is about a Gujarati man teaching the middle class to dream and make money.
All these comparisons notwithstanding, The Big Bull definitely had the potential to be another retelling of a fascinating story of one man who went against the system only to be consumed by its vagaries. However, it falls short because it tries too hard. Kookie and Abhishek set out to make a film about the middle class 'sapnon ka saudagar', but what we end up with is a story of a big bull who bellows his way to the topmost echelons of stockbroking only to come crashing down like the Sensex on Black Tuesday.