I am a huge fan of the Madhur Bhandarkar school of film making... but Corporate did not really work for me.
The Madhur formula is simple: take a 'strong' female character, provide a peek into a hitherto unseen but interesting world, expose its seamy underbelly. Treat the audience with intelligence; they can live with the fact that a film - like real life - need not have a happy ending.
'Corporate' stays true to all this but fails for two reasons:
1. The world Madhur has chosen to 'depicted is not as mysterious or interesting as the world of bar dancers or Page 3 personalities.
Besides, we've seen power and money hungry businessmen on screen before. And venal politicians for sure. This time they sit in gleaming glass buildings and are outfitted by Allen Solly. But overall the film looks like it was made by putting together 'leftover' ideas and characters from Page 3.
2. The bigger issue is the central character - senior Vice President Nishigandha Dasgupta, played by Bipasha Basu. She starts off as this ambitious, I-can-hold-my-own-in-a-male-dominated-world kind of character. But as time goes by, she wimps out completely in the name of love.
For these reasons I don't think 'Corporate' will be a hugely impactful film - critically or commercially. But it's still worth watching because, yes, it has many good moments. And in sum, it's decently made.
Of course, like a Hollywood production, you'll have to pay a bit of attention to figure out who's who. There are a lot of characters, and kaun kis camp ka hai takes a bit of time to digest.
'Corporate' is about the rivalry between 'Sahgal group of industries' and 'Marwah group of industries'. Both groups are bidding for a PSU which the government has put up for sale. Both woo a creepy looking politician called Gulab Rao who is stupendous in the film.
I loved the way he bellows into his cellphone "I am at a 'charity function'" when he's actually cavorting with item girls :). And the manner in which the tender is rigged feels like it came out of genuine research.
But a lot of other things do not ring true. Do senior VPs meet with secretaries in juice shops to learn of their rival's secrets? Chalo, maybe. But hiring a hooker to access a rival's room and steal data from his laptop? Maybe they should add a module called 'spy vs spy' for MBAs!
The film picks up steam in the second half. Sahgals launch the 'mint based sft drink' that Marwah was planning to. And another dose of 'reality' the pesticide in cola controversy is brought into the picture. The film makes a point about how 'issues' are actually used by business rivals to screw each other. That both media and NGOs can be easily manipulated.
Sahgal (played by Rajat Kapoor) is the suave and suited first-gen entrepreneur, with a more 'professional' management style. But Marwah (Raj Babbar) as the more traditionally rooted businessman is more interesting as a character study. His dependence on a 'bapu' for advice on all personal and professional matters is a nice touch.
Kaykay plays Ritesh, Sahgal's brother in law and Bipasha's love interest. He is required to act angsty and tortured and does that job pretty well. Harsh Chhaya as Sahgal's right hand man is very good. Minissha Lamba - never noticed her before - is rather sweet as a young manager. Lilette Dubey as a high class 'madam' (the kind who goes to the gym and interviews celebrities on TV!) plays her part to perfection.
I wish Madhur had not chosen 'colas' as the product that the two companies went to war for. Because that is a category where 'Sahgals' and 'Marwahs' slugging it out jars you. After all it's only Pepsi vs Coke today - both multinationals.
We do see a 'gora' in the form of a taklu called Steve who is Sahgal's JV partner, but I think the battle could very well have been over some other product where Indian companies reign - like mobile phones.
And this is an important point because Madhur always tries to present a 'slice of life' in his films so we expect less of creative license. I think he chose colas because around the time the script was written the 'pesticide in cola' controversy was at its peak. And so it was convenient.
As per the 'Page 3' formula humour and occassional insight is provided by the office peons and security guards.
"Jo kaam ek aadmi kar sakta hai... jab 50 log table par baith kar karte hain.. aur kharaab karte hain - usey Corporate kehte hain".
Ha ha. Mintzberg would probably agree :)