For The Economic Times – On Black Money and Bollywood

Many years ago, in a not-very-good 1980s Bollywood movie, star (and later hotelier) Mithun Chakraborty is given a task by Indian intelligence (which in the 1980s always meant a man in asafari suit smoking a pipe always played by an actor named Iftekhar). Chakraborty, the hero, is an Indian spy-and-commando combo, and he has to go to Switzerland and retrieve something called ‘The Swiss Bank Account’. The line of dialogue, “Black money kills more Indians than malaria,” is told to him as inspiration as he sets off. Without the explanation, of course, of how this happens.

In 1980s socialist India, such simplistic narratives had appeal. Rich people with some foreign connection = bad. (Foreigners = villainy.) Middle-class angry Indian hero who is poor = good. Anyone earning money abroad = black money. One could assume to extend the fear of foreigners for comedic effect and suggest that socialist Indian thinking was: the closer you got to India from the West, the whiter the money. So, America = black money, Muscat = grey money, Mumbai = white money.

Read it here:


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