If the early 1990s were about India’s economic liberalization and the dormant animal spirits being unleashed by (then) Prime Minister Mr Narasimha Rao and Mr Manmohan Singh, the period also came to symbolize the stock market scam led by Late Mr Harshad Mehta. A third-party biopic based on this story is The Big Bull (2021), starring Abhishek Bachchan. The film didn’t capture the nuances of the scam, but it was mostly fast-paced and entertaining. It gets a Mangoidiots rating of ‘Ripe’ for being a story that had to be told and for some fine acting by Abhishek. Available on Disney+Hotstar.
From being nearly penny less to becoming India’s most powerful stock market operator, the story of Hemant Shah (a character based on Harshad Mehta) has been told briskly. Though Hemant had the latent intelligence which he later uses well, it was a critical situation that forces him to take the initial plunge – in India of the 1990s, the middle-class doesn’t take risks easily. When he takes the biggest risk in his life he doesn’t do it recklessly, he does something that even the top investment managers don’t seem to be doing nowadays, which is to read the annual reports of the target company that he plans to buy shares of.
The dialogues by Kookie Gulati and Arjun Dhawan were nice. Check this one, “Without water, most of the life on earth will not survive, it is precious; Gold is not needed for life, you can’t eat it or drink it, Yet it is Gold which cost a lot and Water is free”. Another one “All of us were searching for the source of his funds, was it from the underworld, was it from the politicians, and in the end, it was from our own banks (right under our nose)”.
In real life, Mr Harshad Mehta’s scam was probably due to his own greed and those around him, but having a star as the protagonist has made the director portray it to be a banking system’s failure – it brushes over the acts of forgery, cheating and corruption that were involved. I would’ve preferred it to be fairer and relying more on the actual investigations.
Abhishek Bachchan impressed me, I felt he has walked and talked the character of Hemant Shah. It was nice to see Ileana D’Cruz after her performance in Nanban (2012) in Tamil, nearly a decade ago. Watch “The Big Bull”.