Thursday, October 05, 2006

Corruption <=> Cancer

Longtime since I updated my blog... Something I wrote recently as part of my course... it could better be rated as a blog... so, posting it here...

Film Review: Indian


· Actors: Kamal Hassan (2 Roles), Manisha Koirala, Urmila, Sukanya

· Director: Shankar, Music: A. R. Rehman, Producer: A. M. Ratnam

Language: Tamil, later dubbed into Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Hindi (as Hindustani)

Year of Release: 1996

Central Theme: Eradication of corruption in the society by an extremist-freedom-fighter

Story Line:

During the British rule, looking at their atrocities to the Indians, Senapathy (Father Kamal Hassan) decides to rebel against the British in a violent way. He learns Varma Kalai (a rare martial art practiced in Kerala) that enables him to kill enemies with his bare hands. He gets strongly involved in the Indian National Army formed by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose – He goes to the extreme of joining a death squad in order to destroy the British tanks. Fortunately or unfortunately, his attempt fails and is captured, jailed, beaten, and tortured by the British before India gets Freedom. In between, he saves a woman called Namrata (Sukanya) from the British’s ill-treatment and marries her.

The second part of the story happens after 40 years – the couple has a son, Chadrabose (Son Kamal Hassan, a.k.a. Chandru) and a daughter, Kastoori. Senapathy is still very honest and straight-laced and this behavior creates a split between him and his son. Chandru thinks his fathers principles are not practical. Upon a quarrel with his father on his principles, he leaves the house. He takes a Government job in the Regional Transport Office by offering a hefty sum as a bribe.

A twist in the story happens when Kasthoori is grievously hurt in a house-fire. Senapathy is not willing to bribe the doctors and officers and this delay causes Kasthoori’s death. He realizes how corruption is rooted deeply in every government offices & its impact on the society. He decides to uproot the corruption in a style similar to the one he adopted against the British – give capital punishment to the people who are involved in corruption and to create a general apprehension against corruption.

Senapathy punishes the doctor, village administration officer & collector etc by killing them and making the public aware of it – Media plays a huge role in disseminating this information. The country sees a slow transformation – People deny giving or taking corruption. In such an occasion, Chandru accepts a bribe and grants license to an old bus that causes the bus to get into a major accident, killing many school children. Senapathy comes to know of this. He is very firm on his principle of eradicating corruption at any cost, be it a Filicide. The movie concludes with a message: Giving or getting bribe is wrong, since it’s the major hindrance to the prosperity of the society. Increasing the severity of punishment is the way to reduce and eventually eradicate corruption.

Review: The message of the movie is the need of the hour for the Indian Society, since corruption impacts Businesses and Society at the cost of few individuals benefiting.

· Origin of corruption: Giver Vs Getter

o Instead of debating on the origin of corruption, the movie states that giving bribe is as bad as getting it and severe punishment is applicable for both.

o In majority of the cases in India, the Getter is a Government officer, where as Giver is an individual or a business entity or a political party.

o Views of Bimal Jalan in The Supply and Demand of Corruption[1]

§ In Politics: Relationship b/n high cost of election & corruption

§ Low salaries of some Government officers, politicians etc.

§ Vertical integration of corruption at different levels of Govt.

o The movie compares corruption to cancer that grows and corrupts every part of the system

· Social & Economic cost of corruption

o In the transaction b/n Govt. officers and Business entities, Society is the one that gets impacted the most. It also acts as a de-motivating factor for those who follow a straight-laced approach.

o Government’s quality of expenditure suffers

o Hinders new companies from entering the market, restricts Foreign investments

o Negative circular relationship between corruption and investment explains the Poverty Trap of India 1

· Corruption in India Vs other countries

o The movie contends that Corruption is the reason for India still lagging in the development. It claims that other countries (esp. developed) also have corruption, but the officers are bribed whenever they have to withhold their obligations, whereas in India, even to deliver the obligations, they are being bribed.

· Parallelism between External (British) and Internal (Public officers) Corruptors

o The interesting aspect of the movie is the parallelism that it draws between external and internal corruptors

o It calls for a quick & concerted effort from the people to fight against corruption

· Ways of eradicating corruption – Capital punishment?

o Milton Friedman notes that eradicating corruption is one of the CSRs[2]

o Few suggestions to reduce corruption

§ Let Government handle the entire election campaign costs

§ Increase the salary of Politicians and Government employees

§ Make the government processes more transparent and accountable

§ Reduce the complexity and bureaucracy in Government offices

§ Implement a better feedback, tracking, investigation systems

§ This movie’s approach: Severe punishment

o Though capital punishment might seem inordinate and impractical, the message in the movie is that the punishments should be severe enough to deter people from it.

· Impact of Media

o The hero of the movie uses Media effectively to take the information to the public. It is true in the real life situation as well [Many of the corruptions are brought into light thanks to Newspapers, TV Channels etc]


The director understands the pulse of the audience and hence this powerful message to the society is presented with lots of entertainment factors. Though this movie could not eradicate the corruption by 100%, it has made so many officers think about giving up corruption. Violence may not always succeed – As in our independence effort, the best way to eradicate corruption would be through a Top-Down approach, in which the leader (Gandhiji then) be it Political or Administrative sets an example to its subordinates.

[1] Bimal Jalan – The Future of India: Politics, Economics and Governance

[2] Milton Friedman - The Social Responsibility of Business is to increase its profits

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