I'm finally getting to play characters that are different: Saif Ali Khan
The actor fields questions about his upcoming film, Bazaar, with co-star Rohan Mehra and director Gauravv Chawla
The cold and relentless world of the Mumbai stock market — of bulls and bears, and frantic display screens — forms the backdrop of Saif Ali Khan’s upcoming film, Bazaar. The financial thriller is directed by debutant Gauravv Chawla, and also stars Rohan Mehra, Radhika Apte and Chitrangada Singh. After splashing onto the digital space as a jaded Sardar cop in Sacred Games, Saif, who seems to reinvent himself with every new role, is thrilled to present his performance as an influential Gujarati stockbroker in Bazaar.
“It's a very exciting time and I’m being offered really good stuff. Until a few years ago, I remember, we would be doing the same old stuff while discussing how great or amazing a new Hollywood film is. But all that has changed now — people in Bollywood are actually trying to push the envelope. Baahubali has completely changed our idea of scale: so we have Ajay (Devgn) making Tanaji, which is my next film. I'm also finishing (Navdeep Singh’s) Hunter. So I’m finally getting to play characters that are genuinely different — which is great because otherwise, after Omkara, there was hardly anything (like that),” the 48-year-old actor says.
In the trailer of Bazaar, we hear Saif speaking in a thick Gujarati accent as he holds fort over the financial skullduggery of the stock world. Speaking about his ambitious, powerful turn in the film, the actor says, “My character, Sakun Kothari, is a Gujarati-speaking man. I think it's important to sound like a character and not just look like him. The moment you hear his voice, you immediately know what his class, religion, cultural background and family heritage are. So it's really great to get roles that are letting me do that. To be able to sound like a character is to actually become that person.”
Bazaar also marks the debut of newcomer Rohan Mehra — son of yesteryear actor Vinod Mehra, who passed away aged 45 in 1990. Rohan, who grew up in Mobasa, Kenya after his father’s death, felt drawn to the script of Bazaar because of its timeless appeal: the age-old story of an underdog and a mentor locking horns amidst colliding ambitions and unchecked greed.
“What I really liked about the script is that it's an homage to the films of the 70s and 80s, very much in the vein of Deewar and Trishul. It's a story about two men: one coming from a small town to make it big, while the other has already made it big. I play the underdog character, which is difficult because you need the audience to be rooting for you. I cannot be as flamboyant as Saif’s character,” Rohan says, stressing that he did not land the film because of his dad’s legacy and had to audition to get the role.
“Luckily, since the film deals with finance and stocks, and I have a degree in econometrics, it was easy to get a grip on the character. Also, I think I understand the small-town mentality of my character, Rizwan Ahmed, very well — he is a smart, educated guy who comes to the big bad world of Mumbai to make it big. I think it's the aspirational drive in him that makes him so relatable. He is a very determined guy with a lot of dreams and ambitions,” he adds.
Films, especially thrillers, that deal with business or finance often run the risk of losing accessibility — too much technical jargon is known to throw off a lay or unsuspecting audience. Conversely, by trying to oversimplify the financial world so as to make sense to all, a filmmaker becomes guilty of ‘dumbing down’ a fascinating subject.
Promising a balanced approach to fact and fiction in Bazaar, director Gauravv Chawla says, “When I see a film like Big Short (2015), I do not understand what's happening — it's too confusing for me. They'll do some Jenga stuff and I'll be like, 'Kya hua? Mujhe nahi samaj aya..' However, when we started making Bazaar, Saif was very keen on authenticity and kept asking me questions.”
The filmmaker adds, “When we watch a sports drama, even though we don't understand the rules, we know someone is going to win or lose. The same thing happens in the stock market world: it's a gamble a trader makes, which entails universal emotions of risk and anxiety. For Bazaar, we got experts on board to make the terms and technicalities sound authentic, but it's all in the background. The foreground is a very relatable. You win or you lose, that's what happens in life.”