I saw a Hindi movie on DVD late last night – “Corporate”. Probably this one was a popular movie last year, but I don’t know.

I enjoyed the movie – it was full of twists and intrigue, a volatile mix of politics and corporate lives of two rival businessmen. I am not sure whether it is common practice in India to mix politics and business, I guess it is so – otherwise an entire movie would not have been shot based on the theme. U.S.A. sets the standards when it comes to business lobbying of politicians and political parties – they have legalised the business funding of politics by calling it “political donation” and letting it influence policy-making to the detriment of society in almost every case. In other countries, it is called “corruption” – political corruption of business, or business corrupting politicians.

The India I am seeing now seems to have changed, as compared to even a decade ago. I do not agree with the United Nations ranking of India as one of the most corrupt countries of the world. Just the other day, I refused to make any extra-constitutional payments while registering my car, and my decision held forth despite persuasion to the contrary. If one wishes to, and has the capacity to tolerate pressures, it is possible in any country. The issue is whether the common man has the strength to withstand attacks – he does not, and he most definitely does not have political backing. Given that normal people have other more important things to do in life, it is only to be expected that they would like to get out of any difficult situation by paying off what is demanded. However, common man or not, it is extremely crucial to have some principles and scrupulously stick to the same, irrespective of personal difficulties. It is easier to write this than to actually experience it, and most people tend to hide behind the garb of “no time, I am very busy with my work and family”.

However, a society does not get periodic doses of a Mahatma Gandhi. That kind of phenomenon occurs only once a while – a very long while at that. Societies have abandoned their beliefs in non-violence and non-discrimination. Discrimination is the order of the day – if one has the necessary “power” contacts, then one gets through the normal ordeals of life much easier than common folks. One can often witness this in the power corridors of Delhi, or the business corridors of Mumbai. I am not sure how the contacts operate in the technology corridors of Bangalore, but am sure that people with ideas but no contacts get no funding either.

I was intrigued by the profit motives of the businessmen in the “Corporate” movie, about which I haven’t talked much till now. I am beginning to understand why Fabian Socialism was against business profits in the past 6 decades or so. One of the businessmen featured in the movie (guess that some of these folks operate in real life as well !) was willing to abandon morals and focus exclusively on profits despite the clearly established fact that the soft drink he was manufacturing had a high level of harmful pesticides. You can often see the parallel with American business practices – the french fries have high level of carcinogens due to the very high temperature they are subjected to, the soft drinks are harmful to the long-term health of young and old, etc., but life goes on, since lawyers take over, and governments are afraid of their respective countries’ reputation in global markets as well as the taxes/political donations that they might lose. I was reminded of the incident a few months ago, when a high-ranking secretary to the U.S. Government politely indicated to Indian bureaucrats that business and investments will suffer if Indian government puts restrictions on Coke and Pepsi.

Well, the need of the day is moral fibre, irrespective of loss of face or business profits. Very few people can make that call, and when huge businesses and whole industries are involved along with governments, one can see that vested interests will eventually prevail. I can quote other examples from the developed world, but would refrain from doing so. This is also the reason why environmentalists and social engineers are at the losing end in most countries around the world. Dictators can help, but we all agree that would not be the most preferred way of doing, well, business !

Nexus between politics and business is well established in almost every society, and that applies to even dictatorial regimes. The annual rankings of business transparency do not do any job – if that were the case, India and Indonesia should not be getting any investments. Why is the whole world coming to India – multinational companies are starting their Indian operations at the rate of one per day. If it were difficult to do business, they are not complaining. If they are not sticking to their moral fibre and business philosophy, they are not talking about it either. As long as businesses generate employment and profits, contribute to taxes and political donations, life will go on with the nexus only strengthening day by day.

What the common man can do is to reject any form of corruption in his/her personal life, and see movies like “Corporate”. The movie makers have done a great service. I congratulate Madhur Bhandarkar for bringing out this movie. Apart from the chaotic media, the only other impact that can be had on society comes from movies, in the Indian context (not very different in U.S. as well).

Good show, movie gets 3.5 stars on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best.

Have a wonderful weekend folks,

Best Regards

Vijay Srinivasan
15 October 2006


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