There are few things in this world invented by humans that attract as polar views as money does. On one hand money drives people towards working hard and on the other, we find the same money being the reason for them going wayward and becoming the reason for their downfall. Money is tricky, it can be a double edged sword if not handled wisely. Yes, it is a tool for all the good things in life, but an unhealthy greed and use of dubious means to earn money has led many a great men and women into a cauldron of misery.
Author : Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Director(s): Dylan Mohan Gray, Johanna Hamilton, Nick Read
Release Date: 2 September 2020
Available on: Netflix
Genre(s) :- Documentary, Biography, Crime
Netflix has a penchant for handling controversial topics and its OTT platform allows it the leeway to stream content that would otherwise have invited the flak of the censors. Money as a topic per se may not be problematic but the people who bend ways and means to earn this money leave a trail of suspicion and many times, it leads to legal wrangles. Bad Boy Billionaires aired on Netflix in 2020. It was slated to be a 4 part series featuring the 4 bad boys- Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, Subrata Roy and Ramlinga Raju of which the latter three sought legal refuge to halt the streaming of which only Ramlinga Raju succeeded in getting an injunction. Hence it was streamed as a three part series featuring all but Raju.
The Vijay Mallya Story “The king of good times’ directed by Dylan Mohan Gray opens to various accounts of how he translated his big fat glamorous dream to his airline with models as airhostesses and in flight entertainment. Versions from Vir Sanghvi, Raghu Karnad and his own son Siddharth Mallya and others testify how the bad boy was spending his money on what he perceived to be his brand of extravagance. From person to person, we see narratives that testify how Kingfisher, the beer brand that he built in an India which had so far frowned upon alcohol and had even seen prohibition, suddenly became aspirational. So far so good. But the ambition fuelled zeitgeist pulled a massive blow with his eponymous airlines that turned to be his nemesis of sorts. It surprised many sceptics with its resounding success initially but he went on to borrow money from banks when he needed it without understanding how to repay it. In a bid to turn his airline into an extension of his personality, he upped the offerings which ate into the money.
The documentary ropes in all people who closely watched the rise and fall of the flamboyant Mallya who reminded many of the more successful Richard Branson in another part of the world. From his personal assistant Tushita Patel to his friends including Kiran Majumdar Shaw and Shobha De, what comes across is his reckless pursuit of glamour. His acquisition of the Formula one team and the sixtieth birthday celebrations was the last straw on the back for his unpaid employees. As of today, Mallya faces trial at London and India waits his extradition. The looks like the king is not in the best of times.
Diamonds aren’t forever tells a similar narrative of extravagance gone the ambitious way, stepping on the shoes of money lending banks. Modi was someone who controlled his narrative and then, he was gone. But before that, he took to great lengths to make his an international brand of jewellery. From studying the auctions of luxury jewellery to becoming a part of it, he made it to the high echelons. But too much ambition got the better of him when he started taking loans to expand his overseas business. Soon it turned out banks had lent him money without collaterals and so when he escaped to London, all hell broke loose. Modi, like Mallya, awaits trial in the London courts and possible extradition. But again like Mallya, he will do anything to prevent the latter from happening, lest he faces the heat in Indian courts.
The Subrata Roy story is reminiscent of the days of full page ads espousing the world’s biggest family- one million employees at its peak in 2013. Millions of people from really poor background, with no access to banks. These small earners who wanted to invest their meagre savings were lured by Sahara’s investment schemes. Thousands of such small investors flocked to the Sahara schemes and invested their hard earned money with the hope that they will get some interest and the trust that their money is safe. If only that was true. Hiring thousands of agents to get small investors to put in their money, Sahara grew exponentially. Once he lay hands on these massive assets, he started investing it in all kinds of things. Hotels, properties, the Sahara City and also the Air Sahara airlines. He became the poster boy of everything big, glam and glitz. But at such a scale, you’re bound to come under the scanner of the law when you don’t follow the laws of the market regulator. Sahara’s assets were frozen, Subrata Roy was arrested and all hell broke loose. Investors revolted demanding their money be returned but the money was nowhere. Ever since, India has seen full page ads every now and then , waxing emotional about how they have refunding all the money and trying to do more but the frozen assets is preventing them from doing so. As of today, investors in only two of his companies that went public may get respite as per supreme court orders and get refund, if at all and if ever. The other investors aren’t as lucky.
The three part series portrays the new and emergent India’s stories of big dreams and ambitious people who knew how to grow but not the right means to do so and to stay at the top. Their ascension was fast but somehow did not sustain the momentum. It only shows how people with big dreams must also have the right intentions and use the right means to amass their fortunes. Too big egos, the haste to make more money and to flaunt their riches in every way somehow leads to a massive downfall, faster that what the ascension took. The series also shows how people who were besides you in your growing days, who partook of your celebratory parties and dinners, who enjoyed the privileges you bestowed on, will be the same ones who will come out and speak how you were wrong, when the going gets tough. A lesson for all those who aim to become rich- intelligence and intentions matter, but means matter more.
Here is a trailer of the gripping docu series from Netflix: