Movies reflect what is happening in the society. In some cases, like literature, they also hint at what could be in store for us in the days to come. They not only influence what happens in the society, but also take a harsh look at its ills – including their own! There are a number of spoofs, created by some of our best known dream merchants, which reveal the level of maturity the film industry has attained.
Somehow, movies examine only some segments of the society; that too, mostly along predictable lines. Politicians, cops, industrialists and others are mostly depicted in a stereotyped manner. Business and management have so far not merited much attention from our film makers.
If business has been captured, it has mostly been depicted to be ruthless. Catering to mass appeal, the film makers have propounded the belief that big money is invariably bad. The fact that wealth is not always ill-gotten has been ignored. The reality that every business activity has social spin-offs – like employment generation and wealth creation – has invariably been given a short shrift.
Likewise, the subject of management appears only on the fringes of the narrative. If the story revolves around a business family which is trying to modernize its factories by bringing in advanced equipment and machinery, the issue gets hijacked either as a personality clash between the hero and the villain, or as an industrial relations dispute between the management and the workers.
Nevertheless, quite a few movies have captured some facets of management. It would be instructive for us to review a random sample and see if we could learn some lessons from these.
Setting Clear Goals
Way back in 1992, we had “Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar” (Director: Mansoor Khan) which showed the single-minded pursuit of the hero avenging a humiliation by winning a marathon cycle race in an interesting climax.
“Lakshya” narrated the story of a youngster drifting in life, clueless as to what he wants to do for a living. Circumstances lead him to join the Indian Army and he gets involved with the Kargil incursions by Pakistan into Indian territory. In the process, he discovers himself, achieves a clarity of purpose and leads his men to victory. (2004, Director: Farhan Akhtar)
Yet another coming of age story came our way in “Wake Up, Sid”. It is the heroine (Konkona Sen Sharma) who inspires the hero (Ranbir Kapoor) to set his own goals in life. (2009, Director: Zoya Akhtar).
Rajkumar Hirani explained this concept rather well in his immensely successful “3 Idiots” (2009). If you are passionate about a hobby of yours, and make it your profession as well, you would surely excel. Happiness, contentment, recognition and rewards would automatically follow.
Ethics in Business
“Rocket Singh – Salesman of the Year” (2009, Director: Shimit Amin) had a theme which spoke of ethics in business. If marketing efforts are directed at deceiving customers and if either the product or service is shoddy, the business will go down in the dumps. Philip Kotler would have surely approved!
Managing the Boss
Aziz Mirza delighted us with both “Yes Boss” (1997) and “Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani” (2000). Scratch below the glitzy surface of these slick flicks and you are sure to learn quite a few tricks on managing bosses. If “Yes Boss” was about being a yes-man, “Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani” was about manipulating bosses to get them to announce decisions which were contrary to their original stands. Yes, the bosses were mere caricatures and depicted as bumbling buffoons. But the hero and the heroine could get away with it purely based on the outstanding results they brought in!
Another interesting dimension we got to see was in “Aitraaz” (2004, Directors: Abbas Mustan). The movie was based on a Hollywood flick by the name of “Disclosure”. In return for rapid promotions, the female boss ends up trying to seduce the subordinate hero. However, thanks to a zealous wife and smart technology, the hero manages to wriggle out of a tricky situation!
Hrishikesh Mukherji came up with “Satyakam” in 1969. Based on a Bengali novel by Narayan Sanyal, the movie tugged at our heart-strings by taking us through the trials and tribulations of Satyapriya, a whistle-blower who suffers in his professional as well as personal life and loses the battle against corruption.
In 1983, Kundan Shah gave us the memorable “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron”. With sterling performances by Nasseruddin Shah, Ravi Baswani and others, it tackled the issue of corruption in real estate and construction deals in a humorous vein. The movie ends with a cut-throat gesture made by both the protagonists, signifying the death of justice, fair play and truth in an age of corruption.
Fast forward to 2010, when Shyam Benegal gave us a heart-warming “Well Done, Abba”. A great satire on our public delivery failures, the movie captured the effect of rampant corruption on laymen. Armaan Ali, a driver, plans to dig a well in his farmland to ensure adequate water supply. Depending upon a government scheme, he soon learns the pitfalls involved. How he wriggles out of the situation forms the interesting part.
Of the several interview scenes one has witnessed in movies churned out by Bollywood, the one portrayed in “Golmal” (1979, Director: Hrishikesh Mukherji) remains my favorite. Facing an eccentric industrialist, Bhavani Shankar (Utpal Dutt), who believes in traditional values and thinks that all those without a moustache happen to be characterless, Ramprasad Dashrathprasad Sharma (Amol Palekar), desparate to get a job, puts on a moustache and manages to charm the boss in the interview. He not only lands up with a job with a salary higher than expected, but also manages to eventually sing his way into the heart of the boss’ daughter!
“The Day of the Jackal” (1973, Director: Fred Zimmermann) has the professional assassin appearing for an interview. The OAS team is astounded by the fee of half a million dollar quoted by him to assassinate Charles de Gaulle. The Jackal responds by saying that he deserves the fee, because he is the best in the business!
In both the cases, professional capability, coupled with self-confidence, won the day!
In “Namak Haraam” (1973, Hrishikesh Mukherji), the issue of rising trade unionism was portrayed effectively. Vicky (Amitabh Bacchhan) plans to defuse the situation by getting his friend Somu (Rajesh Khanna) to become a union leader. In the process, Somu gets influenced by the workers’ point of view and a confrontation between the friends ensues.
In Rajshri Production’s 2011 offering, “Love U…Mr. Kalakaar”, Sahil, a struggling artist, is faced with the challenge of running his future father-in-law’s business empire more profitably, so as to be able to win the hand of his lady-love Ritu. In order to ensure success, Ritu, a fresh MBA, ends up giving marketing and HR lessons to Sahil. The movie, directed by S. Mansavi, also captured office politics effectively. Performance on the job and the strong bonding between the lovers eventually saves the day.
Self Confidence vs. Shyness and Diffidence
Basu Chatterji treated us to a sumptuous fare in “Chhoti Si Baat” (1975). Both the hero and the heroine work in different offices. Love blossoms, but the hero is a simpleton and keeps losing to a colleague of the heroine – whether in social skills or in indoor games. Eventually, Arun (Amol Palekar) decides to undergo a crash course in self-confidence, comes back in style and wins the hand of Prabha (Vidya Sinha), the girl of his dreams!
Finances, Share Markets
“Satta Bazaar” (1959, Director: Ravinder Dave) portrayed the ruin of a family due to over indulgence in the share markets very effectively. In another Rajshri offering, “Jeevan Mrityu” (1970, Director: Satyen Bose), the hero uses share price manipulations to seek revenge from the bad guys who had got him convicted for a theft he had never committed. “Guru” (2007, Director: Mani Ratnam) was loosely based on the life of late Dhirubhai Ambani. It restored our faith in the equity markets and showed us how one’s fortune could get reversed and then regained!
In “Chhodo Kal Ki Baatein” (2012, Director: Pramod Joshi), the hero is so busy pursuing his career goals that he fails to attend his daughter’s arangetram. His family deserts him for a weekend. The movie is all about his regaining the work-life balance, and articulates the current dilemmas being faced by managers. There are some useful tips on the art of living, placing the movie on a spiritual plane.
A high-risk business like producing movies can survive only on continuous innovation. Of late, the upwardly mobile middle class in India has opened up a new segment of the movie goers’ market. Bollywood themes are no longer confined to romantic duets, with the hero and the heroine chasing each other around trees. New themes have been experimented with, and the results are heartening. Consider movies like “Iqbal”, “Pa”, “Bum Bum Bole”, “Chak De India”, “Dor”, “Welcome to Sajjanpur”, “A Wednesday”, “Udaan”, “Taare Zameen Par”, “Vicky Donor”, “Kahaani” and “Barfi”. The sheer diversity of themes is remarkable, even if there is a romantic angle deftly woven into some of the plots to ensure commercial survival.
Giving Back to Society
“Swades” (2004, Director: Ashutosh Govarikar) set a good example of how rural problems can be addressed by talented people who decide to chuck their lucrative careers abroad and return to their roots in India.
A recent IFC report showcases Indian Social Ventures like Husk Power Systems, WaterHealth International and Suvidhaa Infoserve. In the days to come, trust Bollywood to come up with more variants of the “Swades” theme!
If “Pati Patni aur Woh” (1978, Director: B R Chopra) touched upon the boss going wayward, “Rang Birangi” (1983, Director: Hrishikesh Mukherji) brought home the issue of a bored housewife getting her busy husband’s affection back with the support of a mutual friend. Both were excellent comedies with serious messages; one showed us the futility of romancing a secretary, the other spoke of the need to attach a better value to the needs of our loved ones.
When it comes to the inner machinations of business empires and corporate feuds, one readily remembers “Kalyug” (1981, Director: Shyam Benegal) and “Corporate” (2009, Madhur Bhandarkar). Even though such efforts have been few and far between, the honesty with which these movies have got made speaks highly of the directors, producers and the script writers. The underbelly of over-reaching greed, unbridled ambition and business rivalry – all have been brought home very candidly in both these works.
“Duplicity” (2009, Director: Tony Gilroy), starring Julia Roberts and Clive Owen was an interesting take on corporate espionage. “Pyaar Impossible” (2011, Director: Jugal Hansraj) touched upon the issue of software piracy, though the basic theme was romantic in nature.
When it comes to team work and bonding, who can forget the Jai and Veeru duo of “Sholay” fame? Personality-wise, both are poles apart. Jai, played by Amitabh, is sober, quiet and meditative. Veeru, played by Dharmendra, is loud and outspoken. The ways in which they go about wooing their sweethearts in the village are as different as, say, chalk and cheese. But when it comes to confronting Gabbar, they work in perfect unison, displaying a unique understanding and respect for each other. (1975, Director: Ramesh Sippy).
MOVIES AS AN INSTRUMENT OF CHANGE ?!
In the scam-ridden exciting times that Indian managers operate in these days, new social developments are taking place. Thanks to a byte-hungry media, we have a torrent of CAG reports, court cases, corporate misadventures, information tumbling out of closets courtesy the RTI Act, sting operations and confidential conversations getting recorded and leaked at regular intervals.
One has no doubt that our movie makers can be relied upon to soon start churning out movies with scripts which highlight management and governance issues with a sharper focus. Hopefully, these would capture the business world in a more balanced fashion – depicting not only the seamier and manipulative side but also the philanthropic and CSR side, besides depicting initiatives in the realm of social entrepreneurship!
(PS: You may also like to look up https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/10/04/management-lessons-from-movies-2-0)