From the Viewsroom

Not scripted for success, yet

TR Vivek | Updated on November 22, 2020

Indian film-makers’ movies on business haven’t clicked

Indian cinema has a business problem. We aren’t talking about the business of cinema but its puerile and plastic celluloid portrayal of the world of business. The release of the excellent web-series Scam 1992, based on journalist duo Sucheta Dalal and Debashish Basu’s book on the Harshad Mehta stock market scam, in October this year raised hopes that Indian film-makers had finally found a way to mine the fertile world of business for compelling scripts. But by Diwali, this nascent hope had crash landed. The much-hyped Tamil film Soorarai Pottru starring Suriya, directed by Sudha Kongara and based on low-cost carrier Air Deccan founder GR Gopinath’s memoir Simply Fly, was a return to normal service. Making mainstream, commercial cinema based on business houses, entrepreneurs or white-collar corporate crime is admittedly hard to pull off.

The 2015 Hollywood film The Big Short, based on Michael Lewis’ eponymous book on the global financial crash of 2008, tried a new tack by getting Nobel prize winning economist Richard Thaler to offer handy explanations for business jargon and complex products such as credit derivatives through the film. The results were mixed. Indian cinema continues to hang on to the 1960s caricature of the Indian businessman as the greedy, exploitative mill-owning seth. Of course, our films have the added task of packing in romantic interest and song and dance sequences into corporate drama. Soorarai Pottru, too, ends up being a tacky fictionalisation of entrepreneurial chutzpah. So, we have the spunky challenger Suriya, as Gopinath, telling off Paresh Raval (a mix of Vijay Mallya and Naresh Goyal of Jet Airways) that he is socialist while his rival a socialite. Perhaps, Kongara misread the title of Gopinath’s book as ‘Simplify’.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Kongara is a graduate of the Mani Ratnam school of filmmaking. Ratnam’s 2007 film Guru based on Reliance Industries founder Dhirubhai Ambani too focussed on the superficial aspects of mimicking the Ambani patriarch’s body language but had less insights about the corporate world than a rookie reporter.

But the 2018 film Baazaar starring Saif Ali Khan about a Gujarati tycoon-criminal must rank as the absolute worst in the genre. The success of Scam 92 in part is certainly down to the excellent material that a journalistic account provided. Film-makers keen on making films on business could profit by reading more.

Published on November 22, 2020

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