Movie review

‘Poster Boys’ film review: An inoffensive comedy that will give fans of Deol brothers a good time

Sunny Deol, Bobby Deol and Shreyas Talpade star in this film about three men who inadvertently find themselves on poster promoting vasectomy.

The lives of a simpleton teacher with short-term memory loss, a righteous former army man with latent anger management issues and a debt collection agent with a proclivity for Michael Jackson’s style jackets, are quite normal by the standards of Jangheti village, somewhere in North India. Until suddenly one day these three men become ostracised by their community and the laughing stock of the village.

Without consent and completely unbeknownst to them, these three men have become poster boys for the health department’s campaign promoting vasectomy.

The taboo, the horror, the damning indictment on their manhood is enough to make two families break off engagements and one man’s marriage to head towards divorce. The biggest cause of concern, the shame, sprouts from the dread of what people will say.

Once they recover from the shock, Jagaawar Chaudhry (Sunny Deol), Vinay Sharma (Bobby Deol) and Arjun Singh (Shreyas Talpade) begin a process of clearing their reputations and proving their virility. This takes them to district and state government-run health departments, but when all official requests and threats fail, they use the media to spread their message. A kind of reality TV-like demonstration wins them eyeballs, support and sympathy.

A remake of the 2014 Marathi comedy Poshter Boyz, which was produced by Shreyas Talpade, the Hindi version has Talpade not just acting but also making his directorial debut. The inexperience shows. Some scenes are loosely designed, the costumes often out of sync with the environs and the inherent humour in an interesting story inspired by a real incident (about three porters who found themselves in this situation) is occasionally lost in translation.

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Since there are three protagonists, each one is given equal screen time, and each gag has three reactions. And when there needs to be a break from the humour, it’s time to bring on the punches. After all, if you have Sunny Deol in a film, there has to be reference to (and use of) his ‘dhai kilo’ (2.5 kg) punch. The self promotion also includes Vinay’s cell-phone ring tone being the theme tune to the Bobby Deol film Soldier and of course the low hanging fruit – a reference to daddy Dharmendra. There are several laugh-out-loud moments, but just in case you need the cues, there’s a soundtrack and sound effects to encourage the chuckles.

Samiksha Bhatnagar does well as Surajmukhi, the mild-mannered teacher’s hot-tempered wife who is desperate for a male heir, even though her styling is better suited to a saas-bahu soap. Sonali Kulkarni’s character remains even-keeled as Jagaawar’s supportive wife. The real comics in the film though are Arjun’s two energetic and enthusiastic sidekicks and Ashwini Kalsekar, who plays to the galleries as the politically incorrect gynaecologist.

Messages are piled in from gender equality and the wrongs of gender detection to equal responsibility for family planning. The issue of over-population is tackled with a light hand and while the humour is anything but subtle, Poster Boys will appeal to fans of the brothers Deol looking for an inoffensive good time.

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Behind the garb of wealth and success, white collar criminals are hiding in plain sight

Understanding the forces that motivate leaders to become fraudsters.

Most con artists are very easy to like; the ones that belong to the corporate society, even more so. The Jordan Belforts of the world are confident, sharp and can smooth-talk their way into convincing people to bend at their will. For years, Harshad Mehta, a practiced con-artist, employed all-of-the-above to earn the sobriquet “big bull” on Dalaal Street. In 1992, the stockbroker used the pump and dump technique, explained later, to falsely inflate the Sensex from 1,194 points to 4,467. It was only after the scam that journalist Sucheta Dalal, acting on a tip-off, broke the story exposing how he fraudulently dipped into the banking system to finance a boom that manipulated the stock market.

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In her book ‘The confidence game’, Maria Konnikova observes that con artists are expert storytellers - “When a story is plausible, we often assume it’s true.” Harshad Mehta’s story was an endearing rags-to-riches tale in which an insurance agent turned stockbroker flourished based on his skill and knowledge of the market. For years, he gave hope to marketmen that they too could one day live in a 15,000 sq.ft. posh apartment with a swimming pool in upmarket Worli.

One such marketman was Ketan Parekh who took over Dalaal Street after the arrest of Harshad Mehta. Ketan Parekh kept a low profile and broke character only to celebrate milestones such as reaching Rs. 100 crore in net worth, for which he threw a lavish bash with a star-studded guest-list to show off his wealth and connections. Ketan Parekh, a trainee in Harshad Mehta’s company, used the same infamous pump-and-dump scheme to make his riches. In that, he first used false bank documents to buy high stakes in shares that would inflate the stock prices of certain companies. The rise in stock prices lured in other institutional investors, further increasing the price of the stock. Once the price was high, Ketan dumped these stocks making huge profits and causing the stock market to take a tumble since it was propped up on misleading share prices. Ketan Parekh was later implicated in the 2001 securities scam and is serving a 14-years SEBI ban. The tactics employed by Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh were similar, in that they found a loophole in the system and took advantage of it to accumulate an obscene amount of wealth.

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Call it greed, addiction or smarts, the 1992 and 2001 Securities Scams, for the first time, revealed the magnitude of white collar crimes in India. To fill the gaps exposed through these scams, the Securities Laws Act 1995 widened SEBI’s jurisdiction and allowed it to regulate depositories, FIIs, venture capital funds and credit-rating agencies. SEBI further received greater autonomy to penalise capital market violations with a fine of Rs 10 lakhs.

Despite an empowered regulatory body, the next white-collar crime struck India’s capital market with a massive blow. In a confession letter, Ramalinga Raju, ex-chairman of Satyam Computers convicted of criminal conspiracy and financial fraud, disclosed that Satyam’s balance sheets were cooked up to show an excess of revenues amounting to Rs. 7,000 crore. This accounting fraud allowed the chairman to keep the share prices of the company high. The deception, once revealed to unsuspecting board members and shareholders, made the company’s stock prices crash, with the investors losing as much as Rs. 14,000 crores. The crash of India’s fourth largest software services company is often likened to the bankruptcy of Enron - both companies achieved dizzying heights but collapsed to the ground taking their shareholders with them. Ramalinga Raju wrote in his letter “it was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten”, implying that even after the realisation of consequences of the crime, it was impossible for him to rectify it.

It is theorised that white-collar crimes like these are highly rationalised. The motivation for the crime can be linked to the strain theory developed by Robert K Merton who stated that society puts pressure on individuals to achieve socially accepted goals (the importance of money, social status etc.). Not having the means to achieve those goals leads individuals to commit crimes.

Take the case of the executive who spent nine years in McKinsey as managing director and thereafter on the corporate and non-profit boards of Goldman Sachs, Procter & Gamble, American Airlines, and Harvard Business School. Rajat Gupta was a figure of success. Furthermore, his commitment to philanthropy added an additional layer of credibility to his image. He created the American India Foundation which brought in millions of dollars in philanthropic contributions from NRIs to development programs across the country. Rajat Gupta’s descent started during the investigation on Raj Rajaratnam, a Sri-Lankan hedge fund manager accused of insider trading. Convicted for leaking confidential information about Warren Buffet’s sizeable investment plans for Goldman Sachs to Raj Rajaratnam, Rajat Gupta was found guilty of conspiracy and three counts of securities fraud. Safe to say, Mr. Gupta’s philanthropic work did not sway the jury.

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The people discussed above have one thing in common - each one of them was well respected and celebrated for their industry prowess and social standing, but got sucked down a path of non-violent crime. The question remains - Why are individuals at successful positions willing to risk it all? The book Why They Do It: Inside the mind of the White-Collar Criminal based on a research by Eugene Soltes reveals a startling insight. Soltes spoke to fifty white collar criminals to understand their motivations behind the crimes. Like most of us, Soltes expected the workings of a calculated and greedy mind behind the crimes, something that could separate them from regular people. However, the results were surprisingly unnerving. According to the research, most of the executives who committed crimes made decisions the way we all do–on the basis of their intuitions and gut feelings. They often didn’t realise the consequences of their action and got caught in the flow of making more money.

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The arena of white collar crimes is full of commanding players with large and complex personalities. Billions, starring Damien Lewis and Paul Giamatti, captures the undercurrents of Wall Street and delivers a high-octane ‘ruthless attorney vs wealthy kingpin’ drama. The show looks at the fine line between success and fraud in the stock market. Bobby Axelrod, the hedge fund kingpin, skilfully walks on this fine line like a tightrope walker, making it difficult for Chuck Rhoades, a US attorney, to build a case against him.

If financial drama is your thing, then block your weekend for Billions. You can catch it on Hotstar Premium, a platform that offers a wide collection of popular and Emmy-winning shows such as Game of Thrones, Modern Family and This Is Us, in addition to live sports coverage, and movies. To subscribe, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.