Friday, November 14, 2008

Billionaires' Row

Even though we don't have a physical destination like a Billionaires' Row in India, it is interesting as to how many of the top dogs on the Forbes' List, actually live cheek-by-jowl, in fairly close proximity to one another, right here in South Mumbai. The Ambanis, Godrejs and Birlas, for example. The senior biz journo who compiles the Forbes' list happens to be good friend. I know the amount of painstaking research that goes into the creation of this list. Since the latest one is just out, and everybody is talking about how many billions less these guys are worth, thanks to the economic meltdown, it is amusing to monitor the figures in the context of the aam janata's perception of the billionaire phenomenon in India. Wealthy people in the past were called Crorepatis,and before that, Lakhpatis. Raj Kapoor's version of how the rich live in India was the version the common man bought into. Those mansions with hideous stairways in the middle of the drawing room.... the heavy drapes and gigantic arm chairs.... Pran in a velvet smoking jacket chomping on a pipe, women in elaborate sarees perpetually yelling at a Ramu Kaka or a Bahadur, teenagers in pig tails off to play badminton at the club in Cadillac Impalas, breakfast tables laden with plump fruit.... aaaah.... all of this was so very naive appealing and innocent.
Today's aamirlog (Mukesh Ambani has dethroned L.N. Mittal as the richest desi), are poorer by a mere $200 billion!!! So saaaadddd! And the Billionaire Club has shrunk to just 27 from 54 last year. Try telling that to the maali in the garden. Or even the kiraana walla down the road. Why.... try telling that to virtually anyone. Who cares?? Nobody. The mood is different. We are happy the super rich in India have pots of lucre. And may they make much more. But in real terms, whether Mukesh cuts back by not buying the next private jet or yacht, does not directly impact anybody's life. But we sure miss Raj Kapoor's version of indecent wealth in a poor country.

13 comments:

Varun said...

So very true! Who cares how many billionaires are there in India and how much they lost in the global meltdown. All I care is whether the salary gets credited into my account by the end of every month.
In hindi film industry it was Raj Kapoor and in Kannada film industry it was Dr. Rajkumar who showed this to the aam janta.

Double Seven said...

Kinda True.

On the good note, it is estimated by the same Forbes people that by 2017, India shall have the largest number of billionaires in the world, far surpassing the US and Russia, and the communist republic of China is not even in the picture!... :D

Bombay shall have more billionaires than Moscow and New York.

I am one of them in the making. :P

--
77

*Aham* said...

Love the “India on top” position! Looks great to read. But an average Indian maanoos like me doesn’t see it translating in personal growth. Still, it warms the cockles of my heart to know some mukesh has featured in the list. Raj has been my favorite director of all times. The sensuality and sensitivity he brought in to the silver screen is astounding. The average joe, the average woh (vamp), and the fagging show (zameendaars and thakurs)… are characters very beautifully etched out… quite the opposite of what we see today… the ameer’s mansions, and courting of the ameer chokri’s with bigda ladka’s in the badmindon courts… wao wao wao wao … what a sight it is to see… especially through the lens of raj kapoor. aaj kal ka film mein toh maloom h nahi padtha.. who is the hero and who is the villion.

He was 11 when he entered filmdom as a character artist in inquilab. And he brought about a revolution in the industry right from his firsts with Aag. For him, a simi walked nude on the puddle without muddle, vaijayanti fit herself in 2 piece bikini, Mandakini and Padmini bared their bossoms… and many did it once and only once for the original showman…

I was least impressed with Toweliya, … ranbhir has his name… but nangu is still too tingu… no one can reach Raj kapoor’s heights.

Poopsicle said...

Who wants to be a billionaire? Not me. I just want my f***ing job at the end of the day..with the recessionary fears looming large, that's what most of us are hoping for, I guess. Before it seeps down to India from Germany..I don't really care who owns a Bentley these days..am happy gaping at them for now (read: keeping aspirations still soaring high ;) OK here is the contradiction-i'd still check the new Forbes list of aam(ire)log

Another Kiran In NYC said...

Dating us all a bit, I thought it was interesting that you defined your cinematic descriptions of Ameer Log by the Kapoor Brothers icons of plaster of paris mansions, and ramu kakas and the hero in tight white pants dancing to a Ted Lyons band at a dinner club. The lead pairs took vacations to Shimla and very occasionally Paris or Tokyo but always returned to badly decorated Haveli and Ramu Kaka and his paranthas.

My own fondest memories of gawking at Ameer Log in Hindi Cinema include iconic gems produced by Yash Chopra, where the hero always had money enough to hire helicopters to shower rose petals on his mehbooba's backyard, and expensive punjabi weddings with 25 different types of paneer on the feast were mandatory. SRK romanced his woman who always wore french chiffons and diamonds (sometimes inexplicably wearing middle market shirts with GAP emblazoned on them). Gstaad and Zurich and Interlaken were the vacation spots of choice... and the lead actress never got fat hips from eating all that chocolate and cheese and Raclette and beer while on vacation. Hmmmmmm, interestingly enough they never showed the lead actress eating... ever! Rich girls of the 80-90's were just discovering eating disorders... I remember! The hero still ate heartily of Paranthas when he returned from said vacation.

Reaching back a tiny bit further, I still remember with pleasure any film with the iconic Zeenat Aman, since she always played a rich gal, with swishy western ways. She drank coke in a wine glass, ate nothing but did smoke a rolled joint or a cigarette sometimes. She always drove a sports car and perpetually seemed in search of stolen gems which I suppose is the hobby of rich girls. Her lead actors did eat... Paranthas with a fork and knife.

Today Karan Johar is probably the most popular translator of symbols on wealth in Hindi cinema. A ritzy lifestyle again is West oriented and is more likely to be represented by very well dressed screechy teens(Really????) going to a prom (really??? *arched brows*) at University in the UK. Rarely the US, because that would mean the lead pair actually studying for the SAT/GRE/LSAT etc or applying for financial aid at some dingy administrative building! The haveli with bad decor of yore has been replaced by ariel shots of estates in Hertsfordshire with the occasional ariel shot of some apartment building on FDR drive in Manhattan. The decor remains Bloomingdales on crack! For a change of pace, sometimes if the lead pair have careers, they drive late model BMW's in the City (really????) and seem to shop for home goods at Corcorans sometimes.

And yes at the end of the film, they still eat Paranthas made by Ramu Kaka or Kanta Ben.

It should be interesting to see how the post Karan Johar represents wealth in Indian Cinema. Will be there be room for organic representations based on the field conditions or will it be fantasy again? Will the waxing and waning of the list of Billionaires and a more upwardly mobile social structure translate well on screen? Will we see more of you and me and Kutty, Madan and Puri on screen as Ameer Log?

Oh and Karan Johar, when I say Post Karan Johar, I dont mean your cinematic demise... just an aside that the folks most familiar with your work are knocking the mid thirties now! So please dont go back into the closet to suck on the buttons of your rainbow pride shirt to relieve distress. Be proud and make more Ameer Log films. A fan... ME... is waiting.

Another Kiran IN NYC

Another Kiran In NYC said...

Addendum....I got my corcorans and conrans mixed up!

For the Karan Johar career couple in the City I suggest shopping for apartments with Corcorans and shopping for home goods at Conrans.

Another Kiran in NYC

HOBO said...

Shree 420 - One of the best movie.

Kavi said...

The list of the big names making a dent to the cover pages of magazines ! But how much will they impact the cover page of ordinary folks is a big question !!

So, finally will it matter if another 70 odd indians make it to that fortune list..? well, unless they spread the wealth around..

silent_thunder said...

I think mukesh should buy that yacht as it does make a difference, money in locker is good for nobody if he spends the money someone somewhere will get th benefit and the money will start the cycle once again from the poor back to Mukesh's hands but atleast now it has a chance to circle!! When a country or the world is in economic meltdown the best thing to do is to spend that will be the best medicine a economy can have!!

Another Kiran In NYC said...

It really helps if the Ameer log pump money back into the desi economy or invest, invest, invest in working and himan capital. Conspicous consumption overseas dosent help the local economy. Mukesh can buy all the yachts he wanrs, after all its his money. It truly helps the Indian economy only if he spent that money in India, bought an Indian made yacht, paid for its docking/maintenance/fuel etc in India, If he buys it overseas and docks it there to be used on occasion (like a bunch of weathy India based desis have done), how is he spreading the wealth in India? I am sure his PR folks are looking at all that. He wasnt born yesterday. Clever man.

Rhett said...

Hmmm. Yeah. koi farq nii painda.
BTW, this NYC lady is in love with you, so I think.

imessolution said...

Kolkata web design company, IMESSOLUTION provides Custom Web Design, Web Development,E-commerce website design development and Search Engine Optimization at affordable prices. Our high-end services are
incomparable to other competitor in the sense that our web design services are excellent while we provide best services without compromising with the quality of the
work.

Siva Cool said...

A truly motivational and life changing book
This book is really a good book which shows us right path. but i read
one more book named "ONE BOOK FOR LIFE SUCCESS" which is truly
motivational and life changing . .The writer has described in Plain English with lot of examples which is easy to understand...For More
Please watch the videohttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biORjS8ngv0