While India was in for a surprise following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to declare Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes as invalid on Tuesday evening, many Tamil film audiences may have had experienced a moment of deja vu.
For decades, the Tamil filmmakers have explored social evils like black money and corruption and some of the films had rightly predicted the end of larger denomination notes. Notably, ace-filmmaker Shakar has largely based many of his blockbusters like Gentleman, Indian, Mudhalvan and Anniyan on the issues of corruption and black money. However, his 2007 film Sivaji starring superstar Rajinikanth in the lead role had predicted that India would abolish larger banknotes to curb corruption and black money in the future.
Rajinikanth had played the title role in Sivaji, in which he leads a war on black money by taking the law into his own hands. The film had also spoken about money laundering and depicted the devastating impact of black money on the country’s poor.
After Modi’s announcement, a Rajinikanth fan page on Facebook shared a screen shot of the film’s closing credits, which had envisioned this solution nearly a decade ago.
More recently, music-composer-turned-actor Vijay Antony’s Pichaikaran (Beggar) had advocated banning of the high-value notes in question to force all the black money-hoarders to declare their unaccounted wealth.
In a scene from this 2016 film, a beggar phones a radio station and gives his thoughts during a talk show. When the RJ asks his idea to end poverty in the country, the beggar suggests banning the high denomination notes.
“The only way to end India’s poverty is to abolish 500 and 1000 rupee notes,” says the beggar. Intrigued by his answer, the RJ asks him to explain. “The main source of India’s poverty is people who make money through bribery, corruption and tax evasion stash away huge amounts of money in the denomination of 500 and 1000 rupees,” he says. “Only 20 percent of people use these larger denominations, while the other 80 percent of people would have one or two 1000 rupee notes and search to find loose change.”
“High denominations like Rs 500 and Rs 1000 helps the black money hoarders to safely stash away the money easily as they can hide even Rs 100 crore in two suitcases. But, if it is Rs 50 or Rs 100 notes, they would need a big house and it won’t be safe as it is prone to theft, raids from police and income tax officials. They won’t invest the black money in gold as the prices keep fluctuating and real estate is not a good option either. So they are not left with much option other than depositing in banks. But when they put the money in banks, they have to pay up taxes,” he says.
“If all rich people pay their taxes, there won’t be poverty or beggars in India,” says the beggar, while seeking alms sitting outside a temple.
Mighty impressed by the caller’s plan to end poverty, the guest on the radio show suggest that a guy like him should become the prime minister of our country.
The comedy in the scene may have overpowered its important message or the idea to ban high-value notes may have seemed impossible back then. But, it is a reality now. The government has taken rather a bold move in its fight against corruption and black money. The government has received a lot of support from celebrities and public too on the matter.