BAD BOY BILLIONAIRES: INDIA (2020)

Vijay Mallya
  • Release Date: 02/09/2020
  • Cast: Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, Subrata Roy, and a host of other characters associated with these individuals
  • Director: Dylan Mohan Gray, Johanna Hamilton, Nick Read

The series brings nothing new to the fore but it does shake us with some apologetic interviews that are absolutely shocking

Bad Boy Billionaires: India is a Netflix documentary series that was originally created as a four-part series with each episode dedicated to the story of the rise and fall of one tainted Billionaire of India. Just before its release, the series ran into legal issues with multiple parties suing the makers and calling for a ban on its upload. After much hue and cry, the series was finally released on 2nd September with one episode edited out of the original feature. This episode was about the Satyam Computers Supremo Ramalinga Raju. So what we have now are three episodes chronicling the stories of eccentricities, opulence, victories, defeats and ultimately, fall from grace of Vijay Mallya (Kingfisher Airlines), Nirav Modi (Firestar Diamonds), and Subrata Roy (Sahara India).

Each episode of the series is about an hour long and evidently, the makers didn’t have enough time to dish out an eye-opening piece of investigative journalism. What we see here has all been on the news and has been talked about in all forms of media and journalism. A lot of the footage is taken directly out of the newsreels and it will most definitely bring back memories of things that most of us remember from the days when these issues hogged the limelight. The makers efficiently use the existing footages and add dramatic recreations to fill in the gaps in the material and present a picture that feels organic and flows without any hiccups. This results in conveying a complete story that is unfolding right in front of our eyes in real-time and one that is intriguing and well-made. Having said that, what works as the real eye-opener are the interviews that the makers provide us with. These interviews were evidently taken recently and they bring to the fore the mindset of the people who were involved with these billionaires and what they made out of their actions and its results on the lives of the people and the society as a whole.

I was perplexed and bewildered by the apologetic attitude of some of the interviewees. Shobhaa De identifies herself as a friend of Vijay Mallya and calls him a “stupid child” who meant no harm when he spent more than the banks in the country could loan him. To her, he was still a “stupid child” when he didn’t pay the salaries of his Indian employees for over 6 months and yet celebrated his 60th birthday in Goa throwing one of the most lavish parties ever in the history of the country with Enrique Iglesias and the Bollywood’s who’s who in attendance. Stanley Pinto, another person who identifies himself as a family friend of the Mallya’s believes that it was the insatiable drive for excellence and being at the top of the world that made Mallya do some stupid things. Otherwise, he was a “jolly good fellow” who meant no harm. Surprisingly, Mallya’s own son, Sid, points out that maybe his father throwing the biggest birthday bash ever in the history of the country at a time when Kingfisher employees were committing suicide due to a lack of means to sustain their families was in bad taste. He adds that it might have felt right to his father but it was wrong optically.

Nirav Modi

Nirav Modi employed more than 2000 people in his factory to polish and add finishing touches to his diamonds. The ladies who worked there still regard him as a noble being. They inform us that Modi had made special arrangements for crèches for them, had subsidized meals for them in the canteen, was always by their side when they needed him, and provided them with a continued and unperturbed source of employment and income. They never sensed anything wrong until one day the factory was shut unceremoniously without any prior red flags. They go on to add that they still believe that he is a “God” to the poor and he should come back immediately to India, sort out all the mess and restart his factory. Vishesh Verma was Nirav Modi’s advertising director and made almost all the promotional and Ad films for Modi’s brands. He still looks at the man as a true Indian who had a very specific version of the Indian woman in his mind and wanted to promote that image world over. To Vishesh, Modi was a passionate tradesman, designer, visionary, and someone who was inspired and still has the ability to inspire and shock the world.

According to Sahara India executive Vivek Kumar, Subrata Roy could do no wrong. Even in the face of all that has come to light about the man and what he has done to steal from the poorest of the poor and fill his own pockets, Kumar sites some acts of occasional philanthropy that Roy evidently did to boost his PR image and revels in his greatness. According to him, Subrata Roy didn’t have a God complex as many of his detractors pointed out but he did have traits of divinity in him that made him better than the rest. According to him, he was a visionary businessman whose every action has aided the poor, and whatever he does or will do in the future will be for the best. He could do no wrong. Rajiv Bajaj, former Vice President of Sahara India remembers a time when he witnessed Sahara reaching the farthest corners of the country and witnessing people trust the organization more than the government.

Apart from these shocking defenses that these tainted men receive from people who most definitely shared in their spoils of the loot, we can see an uncanny resemblance in their respective manners of the meteoric rise and the subsequent sudden fall. At least two of the individuals came to the notice of the authorities after they couldn’t put a leash on their desire for making a statement through lavish parties. One of the individuals wanted to go public and raise more money but couldn’t stop the government machinery from asking the right questions. Another just reached the end of how many he could bribe and keep his wrongdoings under the wraps. In all these cases, another similarity is the presence of at least one honest individual who started off raising questions against the actions of the billionaires and followed it up at little or no personal gains. These men are the true heroes and it is because of these individuals that we can afford to feel a little safer.

Subrata Roy

Bad Boy Billionaires: India gives us a curated and chronologically arranged view of events about the exploits of the three tainted individuals. While it doesn’t bring out anything new in the subject, it does present the matters in a comprehensible and accessible format that will put into perspective these larger than life stories of corruption and clear any doubts that the audiences might have about how these men were able to loot such huge sums without raising any alarms. The series does tie off all the loose ends and also shows us the foreign nexus of these men without which they couldn’t have possibly pulled off these heists. I had a good time with this series and particularly loved the apologetic interviews that went on to document the level of decadence that our society and its elite have stooped down to when it comes to defending their own kind or the ones who they have gained out of or may do so again in the future.

Rating: 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)

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