The Big Bull movie review: Abhishek Bachchan film is a muddled mix of stodginess and melodrama

screenmixApril 8, 2021

The Big Bull movie cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Sohum Shah, Ileana D’Cruz, Saurabh Shukla, Ram Kapoor, Sameer Soni, Nikita Dutt, Mahesh Manjrekar, Supriya Pathak Kapoor
The Big Bull movie director: Kookie Gulati
The Big Bull movie rating: 1.5 stars

The first line in the disclaimer goes like this: “This film is somewhat inspired by true events and more is a fictional piece of work…” What does the ‘somewhat’ mean? And what about ‘and more’? Either it is a fictionalised story inspired by true events, standard procedure for most Bollywood biopics, or it is a fictional piece of work. It can’t be both, can it? Or is it just a sample of the sloppy writing which infuses the whole of The Big Bull?

Only a few months back, Hansal Mehta’s terrific recreation of the Harshad Mehta story had grabbed first mover advantage, in which Pratik Gandhi had done a brilliant job of getting into the skin of the stockbroker-scamster responsible for that most memorable bull run in the Indian markets. In the movies, as in life, timing is everything: The Big Bull come off badly in comparison to Scam 1992 both in tenor and tone, a muddled mix of stodginess and melodrama.

Right from the outset, authenticity is an issue. Why in heaven’s name is Abhishek Bachchan’s lead character, who keeps repeating that he is ‘the one and only Big Bull’, called Hemant Shah, and not Harshad Mehta? After that, it’s open season. The Sucheta Dalal character is Meera Rao (Ileana D’Cruz). And Ram Jethmalani is turned into Ashok Mirchandani (Ram Kapoor). Why could the series freely give us the names, and not the movie?

It’s not just Hemant Shah who is enamoured of the Big Bull line. Meera Rao, the journalist who tracks Shah’s shenanigans and cracks the biggest story of her career, is also made to repeat the phrase. I’d found the recreation of the newsroom in Scam 1992 a tad offkey (it’s near impossible to get the real feel of the newsfloor unless you are in one; about the only one that gets it right is Alan Pakula’s All The President’s Men), but here it’s completely wonky. When Rao’s editor says to her, in reference to the events cooking on Dalal Street, ‘something is happening here. I am the chief editor’, I collapsed. You show me an editor who speaks like that, and I will show you a blue sun. And Dalal’s partner, Debashish Basu, who was as important to the story, has been totally erased from the film. Why?

Shah’s early life, which includes a romance with a pretty girl (Nikita Dutt) who lives in the same chawl, is clearly a prologue to his astonishing rise and rise: during his dizzying ascent, he was the man with the Midas touch, and every share he touched turned to gold. But if you are looking for an adequate detailing of his journey, which would of course include the people who shared it most closely, you‘re not going to find it here. Significant events are dealt with summarily, and the most significant people in Shah’s life, mother (Supriya Pathak Kapoor), younger brother (Sohum Shah) look as if they are there simply to buoy him. These are good actors, but they can’t rise above lazy writing.

Bachchan, with his slicked back hair, fat rings, comfortable belly, looks the part. His patent sincerity comes through in places, but like the rest of the movie, his Hemant/ Harshad lacks conviction: bursting into bouts of loud, exaggerated laughter, which his character does more than once, doesn’t quite cut it.