19May

The lethal trio of Bollywood, politics and the mafia

 

They say little knowledge is dangerous. Add a lot of wealth to it and you have a lethal mix. Successful professional managers are generally brought up in orderly Indian homes where parents and sometimes, grandparents, firmly inculcate the age old values of the supremacy of education (over all other career paths, some of which would demand a gun clasped in a fist rather than a pen) and the perils of overnight wealth. Even in these consumerist times, most well-heeled professional managers keep their private lives insulated from the intrusive media. There is also a lurking fear that a brazen display of wealth (even if it is all tax washed) would invite the meddlesome scrutiny of the tax sleuths.

 

 

The closet socialist ethos of post-independence India kept vulgar display of wealth in check. So, the rich and famous chose the distant destinations of London, the Swiss Alps, Monaco and Vegas to gambol, away from the prying eyes of the austerity driven regimes that ruled Delhi up until the mid-70s. There was hypocrisy in all of this as the Nehru family were not exactly massive fans of either the modest Bata footwear or coarse Binny textiles. But what Nehru, Tata and the Birla clans did in private was not visible to common folks. Which, in a way, was just as well.

By the late 60s, there was a cynical realization among a fairly large section of crafty Indians that politics as a business had virtually no entry barriers. In fact, the lower the moral quotient, the further one was likely to go in this profession, if one can call it so. While you often required a graduation certificate to be a nondescript clerk in government, you could be Prime Minister without any formal education. We are extremely fortunate that till Indira Gandhi hijacked our polity, none of her predecessors was a school dropout or what one would call “matric fail” those days. It is not at all surprising that we now have a HRD minister, the authenticity of whose college education is a matter of ongoing debate. We could soon have a Prime Minister who may have considered even school education too much of a toil in the not too distant future if we continue to worship half-witted celebrities.

Alongside politics, another profession (many believe that it should not be called so) that demands almost nothing by way of intellectual rigor or ethical moorings is popular Indian cinema most of which is dominated by Bollywood. The entry barriers of this industry are as low as they are for politics. While Satyajit Ray, Shyam Benegal and Adoor Gopalakrishnan  could hold their own against any international film maker, many of those who debuted in the eighties and after were cheer leaders of the mafia who took their cues from Dubai before every major shoot (pun intended). The stage was actually set for the infiltration by the goonda class (into Bollywood) by one of Mumbai’s most celebrated “showmen” groveling at the feet of a Don (in public) to muster financing after his magnum opus had turned turkey at the box office. That the Indian government later found him worthy of the coveted Dada Sahib Phalke award only adds credence to the phenomenon of politics and mass movies having become conjoined twins in India. And the dark hands behind the thrones have generally been of billionaires who shunned education as a drag and chose to play the mean streets from their lower teens.

Most of prime time TV is dominated either by the politician or the Bollywood star. Almost every TV owning Indian would know of a certain A Raja but not recognize Kailash Satyarthi. Since most Indian eye balls are credulous being half or barely educated, they probably believe that Raja is more crucial to their lives than Satyarthi. Just as they believe all the mumbo jumbo that Salman Khan’s publicists put out about his “human” side. If there is anything human about him, its perhaps his walking on two feet than four!

 

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