‘Bad Boy Billionaires’: Rise & Fall of India’s Notorious Tycoons
A review of ‘Bad Boy Billionaires’ which delves into the lives of Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Subrata Roy.
Bad Boy Billionaires: India
Bad Boy Billionaires Review: Rise & Fall of India’s Most Notorious
The docu-series Bad Boy Billionaires: India quietly dropped on Netflix on Monday, 5 October, after a court in Bihar’s Araria district on Saturday (3 October) vacated the stay it had imposed on its September release. The three-episode long series features the stories of India's infamous business tycoons - Kingfisher's Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and 'Saharasri' Subrata Roy. Their lavish lifestyles, their alleged crimes and the narratives they spun - Bad Boy Billionaires brings it all together in crisp hour-long episodes that delve into the larger-than-life personalities of these 'boys' and then shatters the image with hard-hitting truths.
Vijay Mallya - 'The King of Good Times'
The episode on 'beer baron and airline owner' Vijay Mallya, who is currently in the UK fighting against his extradition to India, puts Mallya's endless chase for glitz and glamour at the centre of his journey. Through his former employees, close friends, and experts, we are made to understand his personal desire for literally living life king size and how he suitably manufactured that into a risky brand. In a newly-transformed and aspirational India, Mallya's Kingfisher beer catapulted him into the big league, but the man wasn't meant to tread wisely. His optimism and eventual recklessness with Kingfisher Airlines is what ruined things.
“The only difference between a petty criminal and Vijay Mallya is that he wears a suit and throws lavish parties.”Bad Boy Billionnaires: India
Safe to say that none of this is new information. However, what the docu-series does is put a face to those actually affected by the collapse of the Kingfisher empire. One of Kingfisher Airlines' former employees reveals that during the worst phase of the airlines, the crew would sometimes run out of meals for the passengers and serve them their own crew meals instead.
Bad Boy Billionaires adds a comprehensive perspective to the Mallya case, making it clear that Mallya isn't just a fraud, but also a bad businessman. He was lucky enough to inherit a business and make it big but his ambitions were never sustainable to begin with.
Nirav Modi - 'Diamonds Aren't Forever'
Perhaps the freshest of the lot, Nirav Modi's episode focuses on how airtight the Gujarati jeweller's personality was.
His factory workers admired him for the kind of benefits he provided them, those who worked with him at the top admired his eye for design, and those who hung out with him played along with his strong conviction in what he was doing.
Driven by global recognition for a one-of-its-kind Indian luxury jewellery brand, Modi's ambitions seem pure but only as far as the optics are concerned. The retirement of a Punjab National Bank employee exposes the fraudulent ways of Modi's privately held Firestar Diamonds.
While Mallya’s episode is focussed on the beer baron’s delusional ways, Modi’s episode highlights the rampant corruption in the Indian banking system.
Modi could not have risen to the top without having found a way to bypass banking protocols. Unlike former Kingfisher employees, Firestar Diamond's low-income employees are still very much waiting on Nirav Modi's return.
The only unbelievable bit of the episode is when a UK journalist explains how he used his investigative skills to locate Nirav Modi's hiding place in London. When he finally ambushes an unkempt Modi, the man leaves him with a nonchalant "No comment."
'Saharasri' Subrata Roy - 'The World's Biggest Family'
The Saharasri greeting, Subrata Roy's cult-ish and aggressive PR machinery and the way his chit fund business preyed on the poorest of poor - all the signs are pretty much there, but only in retrospect. Subrata Roy's is a rags-to-riches story, one built on the backs of the average Indian person. He's probably the only one of the three who has actually had to pay for his actions, in a way. This episode delves into the collapse of his pyramid scheme and his Sahara business, but only leaves you with more questions. At the end of the day, the real winner is still Subrata Roy - whose Sahara empire, according to the series, is still worth billions.
While each of the stories are different, there's something that ties them together - their complete lack of remorse, total exploitation of the average Indian, and an enabling system. In the first episode, a former Kingfisher employee says that, at some point, she realised that it wasn't the "lack of funds", but the "lack of repercussions" that was keeping Mallya from paying his employees.
Bad Boy Billionaires: India isn't just a study of three notorious Indian magnates; it also gives us a glimpse of all the complicit elements. The Netflix docu-series does a good job of bringing different perspectives to the table. As ridiculous as it might seem, it's still interesting to watch the defendants of these alleged criminals for whom not much has changed. Mallya and Modi continue to fight their extradition, while Subrata Roy is out on parole running his empire.
Bad Boy Billionaires leaves you with an interesting question - is it fair to blame an entire nation for its corruption when foreign elements are equally complicit?
Unfortunately, the series is missing the episode on Satyam's B Ramalinga Raju. Bad Boy Billionaires: India was initially supposed to start streaming on 2 September but a series of legal controversies delayed it by over a month.
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