The year was 1983 and as a six-year-old on my way to school I saw posters of this movie called Hip Hip Hurray. The movie had a special connection with the city of Ranchi, where I was born and brought up. A major part of the movie had been shot in schools in Ranchi (not my school though) and to my knowledge it remains the only Hindi film to be shot in the city till date.
The story of the movie was set around a school football team and its inspiring coach (played by Raj Kiran, who has since disappeared). The script and the lyrics for the movie were written by Gulzar, with the songs being set to tune by Vanraj Bhatia. (This song from the movie, sung by Bhupendra and Asha Bhonsle, is an absolute gem and so is this lovely Yesudas number).
The movie also happened to be the first directorial venture of Prakash Jha. Jha made a couple of art films more and disappeared from the scene, concentrating on documentaries instead. He returned to the Hindi film industry with Madhuri Dixit starrer Mrityudand in 1997.
Since then he has directed movies like Gangaajal, Apharan, Raajneeti and Aarakshan. As their names suggest, all these movies had a lot of political content in them. Given this, Jha has never been far from controversies. His latest film Chakravyuh is set around the problem of Naxalism. And given that controversy couldn’t have been far behind.
The movie has a song with the line: “Tata, Birla, Ambani aur Bata, sab ne hai desh ko kaata”. The song is a reflection of the deep hatred and mistrust Indians have towards big businesses and people who run them (though Bata can hardly be called a big business anymore. But it still remains one of India’s most recognisable business brands).
It is safe to say this mistrust of businesses started during the late sixties and early seventies once businessmen started to get too close to politicians. This was necessary for them if they wanted to survive in the era of “licence-permit-quota raj” that Jawaharlal Nehru had initiated and Indira Gandhi spread.
As Dilip Chitre wrote in the May-June 1972 edition of Quest magazine:
“Mrs Gandhi…has suppressed the industrial private sector in the cruellest fashion. The suppression is in the form of controls which place in the hands of the bureaucracy the power tools of permits and licenses.” (Source: The Best of Quest, Tranquebar)
This meant that businessmen needed to be close to the Congress (Indira) which ruled the nation as well as the bureaucrats. As Chitre wrote:
“Since in India today political power is directly transferrable into economic power, manipulative entrepreneurs in every sphere of activity are drawn towards the ruling party. This may not prevent Mrs Gandhi from pursuing a misadventurous economic policy. It only means that her policies will continue to benefit those corrupt entrepreneurs who regard politics as the only industry which offers the best monetary gains in India today.”
Thus emerged the unholy nexus between big business and politics in India. The other thing that happened was that the income tax rates went through the roof. This ensured that businessmen did not declare a major portion of the profits they made, leading to a swelling black money economy in India.
This benefited politicians as well because this black money helped finance their election campaigns.
“Even election funds come from the swelling reservoirs of black money. It is black money which is the grease that makes every wheel in Indian public life move. The higher the taxes, the greater will be the incentives to avoid or evade them…The new class is here to stay and it will cooperate with capitalist speculators, feudal chiefs controlling the rural cooperatives, millionaire smugglers and corrupt top executives. These are the only beneficiaries of the parallel economy and they comprise, by and large, the Establishment,” wrote Chitre.
Due to the “licence-permit-quota raj” was born a deep distrust for big-business in the minds of Indians. C Rajagopalachari, India’s second and last governor general, was the first to use the phrase licence-permit-quota raj to describe the socialist economy that Nehru had created and Indira Gandhi spread.