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Bad Boy Billionaires: India review - A fascinating docu-series

Holds up a mirror and offers an arresting view into the motivations and workings of white collar offenders

Source: SIFY

By: Sonia Chopra

Critic's Rating: 3/5

Friday 09 October 2020

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Movie Title

Bad Boy Billionaires: India review - A fascinating docu-series

Director

Dylan Mohan Gray, Johanna Hamilton, Nick Reed

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Bad Boy Billionaires may be about white-collar offenders, but I also found it to be a fascinating study of human behavior.

After months of legal wrangling, Netflix finally won the right to showcase three out of four episodes of their ‘Bad Boy Billionaires: India’ docuseries. (The fourth episode of the series — about B. Ramalinga Raju — remains on hold as Netflix is still contesting a legal challenge on it.)

Consider this: the three offenders here— Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Subrata Roy—have strikingly similar qualities. They are often described as ‘flamboyant’, they are megalomaniacs displaying narcissistic tendencies, they are surrounded by a small group of loyalists, and both Mallya and Modi yearned for a formidable global presence.

If you look at the first episode revolving around Vijay Mallya (directed by Dylan Mohan Gray), the dichotomy in the way he is described by his friends and by his former employees is a revelation. Mallya borrowed heavily from banks and fled the country when his company went bust. Despite owning several properties and assets, he refused to pay his employees for months (leading to an unfortunate suicide). A few years later, the “bankrupt” Mallya held a lavish 60th birthday bash where Enrique Iglesias was flown in for a performance.

Former employees interviewed for the series called him a thief in a suit. Meanwhile, his friends continued to downplay his behavior with these words – ‘He is not a crook, he’s an idiot,’ ‘the kid in him gets into a lot of trouble,’ ‘he was callous,’ and ‘he is in denial’. Perhaps they didn’t know how crass their words would sound when placed against the enormity of his actions.

The next episode (directed by Johanna Hamilton) is about the more recent Nirav Modi case, aptly titled – ‘Diamonds Aren’t Forever’. Born into the diamonds business in Surat, Nirav Modi aimed to go international with his brand, competing with the topmost jewellery houses. His aesthetics and signature pieces like the Golconda Lotus Necklace that sold for over 16 crore and the ‘Embrace stretchable bangle’ were admired by all. But this was another case of a person who let their ambitions get the better of them. Just as his fraudulent activities were about to become national headlines, Modi fled out of India, only to be tracked down by a journalist. This episode has some interesting interviews by his former employees who call him their ‘god’ and cannot understand why he would do something that would jeopardize their lives.

I still remember the music video released years ago, where Subrata Roy and wife Swapna chronicled their rags-to-riches story. It was a tad disappointing to not find the video as part of the episode titled ‘The world’s biggest family’ (helmed by Nick Read). Roy built the Sahara India Pariwar company from the chit fund pyramid scheme, wherein people with limited means deposited their earnings in the hopes of getting good returns. Frighteningly, at some point, one in 17 Indians were depositors in the Sahara scheme. The returns came initially, and then dried up.

When Roy, often called SaharaShri, threw a mad lavish wedding for his sons (counted as one of the priciest weddings ever), he came under the scanner. The episode has interviews with depositors who never saw their money again, news editors, and Sharat Pradhan, an investigative journalist who trailed the story for almost 30 years. Despite the fraud that led to innumerable people suffering, it’s fascinating to see that Roy still finds supporters who speak of him as if he were a mythical god-like figure.

As far as new and new and ground-breaking information goes, the series offers nothing new. It just holds up a mirror and offers an arresting view into the motivations and workings of these, well, bad boy billionaires.

There was a time when it was believed that to be successful in business, you’d have to tweak a few rules and throw ethics out the window. As this series proves, that kind of narcissistic ambition does take one to new heights, but only to plummet into a downward spiral that’s unforgiving and fitting. 

 

Sonia Chopra is a critic, columnist and screenwriter with over 15 years of experience. She tweets on @soniachopra2

 

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