Chitrangada Singh in the film 'Baazaar'. Image Credit: Supplied

Actor Saif Ali Khan is splendid as a ruthless, company-gobbling tycoon who manipulates for a living in Baazaar.

Set against the murky world of stock trading in Mumbai, Khan plays the devilish guru of greed Shakun Kothari. He’s a self-made Gujarati billionaire who revels in hostile takeovers and playing dirty. He’s virile and virulent. However, it’s evident that Khan is having a ball with this landmark role as he embraces his flaws with admirable flair. He’s delightful as an amoral suited-up villain who rips apart his opponents with absolute ruthlessness.

Gems like “I rely on maths, you rely on emotions” are constantly doled out by Khan’s character. It’s undoubtedly cheesy, but Khan manages to pull it off with flair.

A big let down in Baazaar though is the newcomer Rohan Mehra as Rizwan Ahmad, a small-town boy from Allahabad with big dreams to conquer Mumbai’s stock trading world and grab Kothari’s attention by any means. He idolises him, and his entry into his inner circle and empire is unconvincing.

The thriller takes a downward turn as soon as a coltish Mehra appears onscreen.

This cautionary tale about greed, power and morality placed the onus on this young actor to take the bullish story forward, but Mehra simply isn’t up to the task.

He’s suitably gawkish, but crumbles under all that pressure to perform with seasoned actors. His naive act is utterly implausible and he lacks the magnetic appeal of Khan. While you are tempted to go easy on the new boy on the block, you may feel let down as a viewer by this terrible miscast. This boy has a chip on his shoulder about being from a small-town, and it’s just grating.

Mehra lacks charisma and that brings the thriller crashing at several points with his insipid act.

The movie — with its fair share of ups and downs — is a celebration of the morally ambiguous boys’s club. Fortunately, the women in this crime saga — Radhika Apte and Chitrangada Singh — have worthy roles to play. Though their characters aren’t as fully-fleshed out as the men, they aren’t reduced to a trophy wife (Singh) or a pretty girlfriend (Apte).

Apte as a glamorous stock hustler and Ahmad’s girlfriend is a treat to watch, while Singh as Mandira, the moneyed and classy better half of Kothari, does what’s expected of her.

The movie soars when Kothari swoops in for his kill, but takes a nose-dive when the voice of reason and the good vs evil narrative rears its head.

There’s something cathartic about seeing unapologetically evil men operate their business and Kothari is a kingpin of that. His lack of remorse is wonderful to watch.

The first half of the film moves at a decent pace, but the second half is riddled with a few fractured turns. Why did Kothari take the wide-eyed Ahmad under his wing and into his inner circle so swiftly? Why didn’t Ahmad see red when a shark-like Kothari was being uncharacteristically nice towards him? These are a few questions that will come up. While the thriller set against the concrete jungle of Mumbai isn’t particularly memorable, its lead player Kothari has a longer shelf-life. Watch this solely for Khan.

Check it out!

Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Rohan Mehra, Radhika Apte and Chitrangada Singh
Stars: 2.5 out of 5