Sitting in the middle of a ‘house full’ show, filled with shouts and whoops at seven am on a Thursday, I allowed the madness to infect me and dived headlong into the story of the film.
Farmers in a remote North-Eastern village of India discover an injured man floating in the river. They take care of the man, and wrap him in healing herbs. The man saves the tribe from vicious men in uniform who have not come to loot, but to kill. The people are saved, but his memory has been lost.
Thirty years later, we are shown women holding up a Metro train in Bombay led by a vicious man who kills a woman to make a point. Their demand is outrageous. The Minister for Agriculture has to transfer money to an unnamed account or they will kill everyone on the train one by one.
In this world of live streaming, the hijacking of the train, the righteous demands and the subsequent escape of the women and their bald leader become a problem for the government. The corruption is linked to a man called Kali who is an arms dealer. The fight of good vs evil today culminates in a fun twist in the tale that helps the man we saw in the beginning of the film regain his memory…
What can a film that has supposedly earned 200 crores in two days teach us about money?
Lesson One: Online banking safety checks are important
Right off the bat, the movie shows women getting into a Metro train in Bombay. One of them is a hacker, who gets into the system and stops the train, holding passengers hostage until money is transferred into a particular account.
What does hijacking of a train in a movie have to do with your money? Simple. Banking online is safe as long as your account is protected by passwords. Don’t be foolish enough to choose something as obvious as your birthday or your loved one’s birthday as a password. Think harder. That’s why you are often urged to get a ‘stronger’ password. And then don’t write it down in a diary right next to the computer where it can be accessed by just about anyone.
Lesson Two: Consider everything when you apply for a loan
In the film, there’s a young woman who has seen her farmer father commit suicide because the bank officer has repossessed the tractor and claims that the machine covers only the interest on the loan and not the principal. The bank officer humiliates the farmer in front of the family and the villagers.
Most of us are a tad careless when it comes to fine print. We want to know just the basics and bankers distract you with, ‘Loan approval is instant’, or ‘You don’t have to start repaying for twenty four months!’, ‘We will take care of everything, just sign here…’
It’s a cautionary tale. Sometimes we misread terms and conditions, or that the fine print of too fine for you to figure out awful things like repossession… So whether you are applying for a business or a personal loan, it is better to know all the potholes on the road to your success.
Lesson Three: What’s your investing style?
Most of the fans cheered each time Shah Rukh Khan showed up on the screen in a new avatar: the bald hijacker, the clean shaven jailer, the mummy-like bandaged saviour with memory loss, the long haired and masked EVM machine stealer, the moustachioed army special ops guy, and yes, the lover, the dad…,But one sceptic sitting next to me muttered: how many ‘entry’ scenes is this movie going to have?
When it comes to financial instruments, there are better and better offers that show up to dazzle you, the investor. You have to make smart choices. Do you choose the patriotic army officer and choose to invest in government backed schemes? Or will you choose to be the risk taking young dashing jailer, who brings justice to the women who trust him? Clearly you have to choose your risk profile and see what kind of returns each investing style brings to you.
Lesson Four: When opportunities come calling. Do you dare make a deal?
Kali Gaekwad, the villain of the film (Vijay Sethupathi) has fingers in many pies. And he is proud of his deal making abilities. He has persuaded the banks to forgive a loan of 40,000 crores, he persuades baddies from many foreign countries to come to Russia and hear his nefarious plans to abuse Indian resources and make more money. He even has sage advice to give to his younger brother: When you’re doing business, it is important to keep a cool head at all times.
In real life, you don’t want to be the villain manufacturing fake guns, but if you wish to be successful, you could perhaps invest in multiple schemes, instead of putting all your financial eggs in one basket.
Perhaps you will meet many villains who will scream (just like Kali does, ‘Make a deal!’) from all directions. You will receive emails, text messages, messages on encrypted apps, phone calls from ‘relationship managers’ who will say, ‘Make your money work harder for you’. But heed what Kali said” keep a cool head. Don’t fall for strange offers of deals that promise you truckloads of money!
Lesson Five: Ask questions: What? Why? How?
Social media is abuzz with the speech Shah Rukh Khan makes about why the world doesn’t need heroes or saviours. He says, and I paraphrase, ‘We ask so many questions about ordinary things like ‘What kind of mileage does this bike give?’, ‘Will this soap clean whitest?’ and so on. But when it comes to electing people who will represent us for five years, we rely on things like caste, religion etc to choose our government. We should be asking questions like ‘What will you do to help me get a job? What schemes will you create to help my kids get a better education?’
When it comes to our money life too, we make the same mistakes, don't we? We open accounts in banks because our fathers have accounts in that bank. We invest in say, fixed deposit schemes because your uncle insists they are a safe bet…Isn’t it time we become aware of our rights as investors to know all the details of schemes, and not just assurances from bankers who say, ‘Don’t worry!’
Lesson Six: The smart investor has the last laugh
On a lighter note, when you watch movies, you can sometimes see sources for inspiration rather clearly. Sometimes filmmakers use tricks to pay homage to their filmy gurus, and at other times, they plain lift scenes from other, more famous movies and shows. You are a clever spectator if you catch them. In the film, the women hijacking the train with their chief are dressed in yellow tracksuits with a black stripe. Is that an homage to Tarantino’s Kill Bill or Bruce Lee? The Blue Pill/Red Pill is straight out of The Matrix, isn’t it? When Jailer Kaveri becomes Kaveri Amma they’re reminding us of Swades (2004), and when Kaveri Amma holds up the baby, it’s a scene straight out of The Lion King, which is referenced again as Simba and Mufasa later! Silver-haired Shah Rukh Khan appearing with a cigar in his mouth is surely based on Rajinikanth, no? The flashback of army men hiding behind a mud door when the terrorist with a machine gun has cornered them is straight out of The Book of Boba Fett when the evil cowboy Cad Bane has cornered the heroes behind the wall and you think they’re all going to die in that ambush…
If you are an informed investor, you will enjoy watching the schemes play out in front of you. Most schemes promise extraordinarily high returns and you will realise that they seem very familiar. It helps if you can create a comparative table of offerings and then choose to invest in the schemes that suit you best.
Manisha Lakhe is a poet, film critic, traveller, founder of Caferati — an online writer’s forum, hosts Mumbai’s oldest open mic, and teaches advertising, films and communication. She can be reached on Twitter at @manishalakhe.