Who doesn’t know about Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Subrata Roy? Yet, Bad Boy Billionaires: India offers a refreshing take on these three men, who became larger-than-life, and their eventual fall from grace.
While those following the financial world might be well-versed with their life stories; for even a layman, these form a great spectacle. Told by their former employees, friends, journalists, investors, partners; the three episodes run like a film’s plot — the rise, intrigue and retribution.
The King of Good Times, directed by Dylan Mohan Gray, Vijay Mallya’s story is that of a liquor baron at a time when pub culture was yet to find feet in India. An extravagant lifestyle, chairman of Kingfisher Airlines is shown in all hues, yet it seems like an attempt to play down his crime. Mallya’s friends —Shobhaa De, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Manoviraj Khosla and more — come together to narrate the fascinating tale. The crescendo builds as the documentary culled from newspaper headlines and telly interviews takes the tale forward. One awaits the fall, but that’s hurried and not entirely the focus.
Diamonds Aren’t Forever is another magical tale from Diamond city of India, Surat, directed by Johanna Hamilton. It is about the ambition of a man, who dreamt of rubbing shoulders with Cartier or Tiffany and almost got there. But the road to this dream of Nirav Modi was built on fraud. Raising letters of undertaking, missing cash collaterals; the man, who brought celebs from Hollywood and Bollywood together at his store launch in New York, slipped just before the big news broke out. Unlike the first, this episode has a heroine — Nirav’s wife Ami Modi — who worked as a perfect partner. As Modi established his empire, he played God to the poor, who got jobs and more. However, once again the focus of this story too is more on the good than the bad.
What the story of Saharsri — Subrata Roy of the Sahara Group — lacks in terms of celeb glitz, is covered by the immense support he found in the power of small-time investors, whom he turned into a parivar. Directed by Nick Reed, The World’s Biggest Family is about a vision that began on a Lambretta through the heartland of economically weak Uttar Pradesh and reached dizzying heights. Roy, who helped the poor sail through big and small expenses of life, eventually was put behind bars for fraud. After two years in jail before being let out on parole, Roy eventually raised 1.2 billion dollars that was returned by the authorities to investors. It’s a story told from the point of view of small-time investors, many of who still consider, hona nahi chahiye par parivar main aisi battein ho jaati hain.”
One enjoys the remarkable stories — three almost Greek heroes (that’s how they seem painted) with one fatal flaw. Facts stranger than fiction, the narrative is woven beautifully. Though it seems like propaganda to clean up their image, one wonders why many tried to stall the release of this docu-series? The episode on Ramalinga Raju, founder of Satyam Computer Services, is yet to be aired.