Tuesday November 19, 2019
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Paradise Papers: The “loot” of Nation’s Wealth by the “ultra-rich” of the Country

India ranks 19th out of 180 countries in Paradise Papers.

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One of the largest belongs to Mukesh Ambani.
One of the largest belongs to Mukesh Ambani. Wikimedia Commons

By Salil Gewali

India boasts of having one of the largest and expensive modern mansions in the world – second only to the palace built by Sultan of Brunei. That belongs none other than a filthy rich Mukesh Ambani. But very contrastingly, India has also often been disgraced for its maximum number of citizens who spend their nights, their weeks, their months and years in the open pavement even in the cutting cold of the winter. Yes, the country bears the burden of the largest number of poor people in the world – approximately 276 million people live below poverty line. What a vast difference between the haves – the super-rich, and the have-nots.

The “loot” of nation’s wealth by the “ultra-rich” of the country had been going on quietly until the German newspaper brought out to the open the details of Paradise Papers from Appleby, the Bermuda-based legal service provider. Needless to say, for the ultra-rich, the name of the game is “tax planning”, offshore finance, the creation of off-shore entities, et al. In the eyes of our authorities, it is about “deemed lapses in corporate governance, alleged fund diversion, irregularities in disclosure norms,” and so on. One wonders, in this scenario, what is at stake for the common man?

  As for the common man, his humble “paradise” is being looted; his God-given right to share his due is throttled. His children’s chances to come up in life, if at all there are any, are choked. His right to a “fair living” is gradually drifting apart. Because the very means of his life is plundered by a few ultra-rich. On a wider outlook, at the national level, the country’s wealth is burgled and robbed. Then who are these plunderers?

There are more than 700 of them from our country in the disclosed list of having Paradise Papers– the disclosure is still incomplete – of Paradise Papers. Very funnily, these names include persons, who the common man relies on, worship, holds in high esteem and vows to give his life for. Film star Amitabh Bachchan, who is often worshipped, Union Minister of State  Jayant Sinha, BJP Rajya Sabha M.P., R.K. Sinha, Corporate tycoon Vijay Mallya, Corporate lobbyist Niira Radia, Harsha Moily, son of former UPA Minister Veerappa Moily, Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt’s wife Dilnashin, son of former UPA powerhouse and Central Minister P. Chidambaram, former Union Minister Sachin Pilot, and several others who is who of India’s Corporate world, politics, and other fields. Interestingly, What more? Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain, Lord Ashcroft, the most prominent British politician, U.S. Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, Shakira, Madonna and notoriously disgraced Harvey Weinstein, for his sexual wrongdoings and so on and so forth.

In spite of strict regulations in every country, it would be interesting to know, how these celebrities, politicians, multinationals, and the ultra-rich individuals are hiding Paradise Papers. I’m not wrong that rules in every country have built-in loopholes. In other words, rules of every country have provided loopholes to the cunning and crafty to circumvent them. And we have got them in abundance. The very fact that our country ranks 19th out of 180 countries in Paradise Papers is certainly not something that we can cheer about.

 The wealthy form shell companies, “foundations”, and “trusts” as a cover to hide their money from tax authorities. They form “offshore” accounts that are handled by law firms specializing in these “offshore’ expertise. To the world, their forceful argument is “offshore” banking which is legal. But, this is practiced by only the ultra-rich to evade tax. They take advantage of the legal loop-hole by taking shelter under the tax treaties by our Government.

  But frankly speaking, will they ever be able to “use” that wealth? I don’t think it’s possible in the practical world. They can’t even see, touch and feel their wealth they have once dispatched. Not even after 500 years, they can use it if they ever could live.  Because these super-rich people already have countless wealth which is in their various kind of treasury vaults.  Is it not the paradise of illusion then?

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter @SGewali.

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Bollywood Megastar Amitabh Bachchan Completes Five Decades in B-town

Big B's tryst with honing his craft continues, with the eagerness of a newcomer -- as is visible in every new film. Perhaps that is the secret of his excellence and survival

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Amitabh Bachchan. Wikimedia Commons

BY SUGANDHA RAWAL

Amitabh Bachchan’s journey of five decades to become the Bollywood “Shahenshah” was not always a smooth ride. Indeed, his life is nothing short of brilliant biopic material. Early rejections were followed by a phase when he made his mark as a promising actor, which was soon overshadowed by the kind of superstardom Bollywood never saw before or after. When the superstar tried his hand at film entrepreneurship, he went bankrupt, only to bounce back and claim supremacy as a super brand and respectability as an icon.

The first reaction of the industry all those years ago, however, was far from welcoming. His tall and lanky frame, and the baritone of his voice, were deemed unsuitable for Bollywood’s image of a perfect hero back then. These factors were pointed out as flaws, and reasons why he wouldn’t be able to make it big in the industry.

Today, he is the face of Indian cinema all over the world, and for decades he has been drawing his USP from those very attributes that were considered drawbacks back then.

“Saat Hindustani”, released on November 7 1969, marks the start of his salad phase. The son of celebrated poet Dr Harivansh Rai Bachchan started his journey as one of seven protagonists in the film, which didn’t exactly mark a blockbuster debut.

The first time he was seriously noticed was when he essayed a supporting role in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Rajesh Khanna-starrer “Anand” (1971). Despite the presence of Khanna, the reigning superstar of the times, Bachchan grabbed attention in the role of Dr. Bhaskar Banerjee.

Despite getting noticed in “Anand”, Bachchan had to see a phase of brief struggle, despite a long list of releases such as a “Parwana”, “Reshma Aur Shera”, “Sanjog”, “Bombay To Goa”, “Ek Nazar”, “Bansi Birju”, “Raaste Kaa Patthar” and “Bandhe Haath”.

Megastar Amitabh Bachchan at the 23rd Star Screen Awards 2016. Twitter

If his career is to be divided in phases, those early films, which also included “Chupke Chupke” and “Abhimaan”, could be termed as the Hrishikesh Mukherjee era. By the time Bachchan was co-starring with Rajesh Khanna in Mukherjee’s 1973 release “Namak Haraam”, people had already started talking of the tall, dark and brooding actor as the man who would be Bollywood’s next king.

It happened the same year, with Prakash Mehra’s “Zanjeer”. Rooted deep in angst and emotions attached to middle-class India, and delving into complex aspects of human lives, Bollywood’s “Angry Young Man” was born in Prakash Mehra’s 1973 hit, “Zanjeer”.

The film, riding the powerful writing by Salim Khan and Javed Akthar, went on to usher the era of violence and intense drama in Bollywood cinema. As Bachchan began rewriting cinematic trends for the Hindi film industry, Rajesh Khanna’s romantic era became history. The Salim-Javed phase of Amitabh Bachchan’s career began.

The Salim-Javed scripts that would go on to define Bachchan’s Angry Young Man image were “Deewar”, “Sholay”, “Trishul”, “Don”, “Kaala Patthar”, “Dostana”, Shaan” and “Shakti”. These films mark the zenith of the actor’s superstardom, cementing his permanent position in the industry.

Salim-Javed’s intense image for Bachchan was best interpreted by Prakash Mehra (“Zanjeer”), Yash Chopra (“Deewar”, “Trishul”, “Kaala Patthar”), and Ramesh Sippy (“Sholay”, “Shakti”).

Bachchan also proved to a peerless comic hero and entertainer in the Manmohan Desai films of the era, notably in “Parvarish”, “Suhaag”, “Amar Akbar Anthony”, “Naseeb” and “Desh Premee”.

"The idea is to reshuffle the side and come with a much stronger and dynamic team,"
Amitabh Bachchan. Wikimedia Commons

“Besharam”, “Muqaddar Ka Sikandar”, “Mr. Natwarlal”, “Silsila”, “Satte Pe Satta” and “Namak Halaal” were a few other films that highlight his career as Bollywood’s biggest commercial phenomenon in the seventies and the eighties.

As he was busy making his mark, he was struck with the accident on the “Coolie” set, but that didn’t deter him to lose focus from his goal. The film went on to be a big hit when it released in 1983.

By the time he won his first National Award for “Agneepath” (1990), Big B’s popularity was sky-high.

The slowdown started sometime in the mid-nineties, after he launched his company, Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Limited (ABCL). Big B, as he was being hailed by fans the media alike by now, somehow could not take to the world of business with the same effortless brilliance as acting. The failure of his entrepreneurial dreams also affected his box-office performances. Films such as “Mrityudaata”, “Sooryavansham”, “Major Saab”, “Lal Baadshah”, and “Kohram” crashed in succession in the mid to late nineties. In David Dhawan’s much hyped 1998 Diwali release “Bade Miyan Chote Miyan”, fans felt he was overshadowed by Govinda.

Big B needed reinvention, and there started a new phase in his career.

It happened on the small screen, as he took to hosting the quiz show “Kaun Banega Crorepati” in 2000. Entering the living rooms of fans every weekday with a fresh set of questions for contestants, Amitabh Bachchan became a knowledge guru of sorts — perfectly in sync with his advancing age. The Angry Young Man of yore metamorphosed into the Wise Seasoned Celebrity, and new-age Indian television’s biggest phenomenon was born.

Much of what he has done over the past two decades resonates the icon that the KBC phase of Bachchan’s superstardom is defined by. The quiz show, after all, helped him find a solid comeback as a big screen phenomenon, defying age and stereotypes.

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Creditable projects of this phase include “Mohabbatein”, “Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham…”, “Aankhen”, “Kaante”, “Baghban”, “Khakee”, “Black”, “Bunty Aur Babli”, “Bhoothnath”, “Paa”, “Bol Bachchan”, “Piku”, “Wazir”, “Te3n”, “Pink”, “102 Not Out” and “Badla”.

He would win three more National Awards during this phase — for “Black” (2005), “Paa” (2009) and “Piku” (2015). This year he has been declared recipient of Dadasaheb Phalke Award for his contribution to Indian cinema.

Despite being 77, he continues to be one of Bollywood’s busiest actors. His upcoming line-up includes “Chehre”, “Gulabo Sitabo”, “Brahmastra”, “Jhund” and “Aankhen 2”.

Big B’s tryst with honing his craft continues, with the eagerness of a newcomer — as is visible in every new film. Perhaps that is the secret of his excellence and survival. (IANS)