The Socialist Indian Movie Hero

A question. How many times did you come across the line “robbing from the rich and giving to the poor” in your life so far? 2 times? 10 times? 50 times?

If you watched enough indian movies in your life so far and assuming that you are a reader aged 20 years or older, you might have come across this phrase more than several hundred times. This line is an apt and crisp description of “indian movie hero”. The state of movies in India is somewhere between pathetic and insufferable. Start from anywhere in the movie, you will always reach the one line mentioned above.

Actually, this line is not even of Indian origin. It is the most used description of the infamous outlaw in English folklore – Robin Hood. So basically what we have in India is a host full of movies in various languages, almost all of which are reflections of Robin Hood in one way or the other. I remember very vividly in a telugu movie called “Kondaveeti Donga” (Thief of Kondaveedu), the lead character, performed by Chiranjeevi, hones a mask and rushes on his horse to rescue the poor workers whenever the rich villian cheats them. He robs the rich villian and gives to the poor workers. This is actually a leitmotif across movies in almost all languages. You move to Tamil movies, Thalaivar Rajnikanth in “Talapati” (Leader of the Pack) takes away gold and money from people on road to save his critically injured friend questioning fervently their human values. You go to Hindi, you see nothing different. The rot is so deep that even movies on some literary pundits in India’s history like Annamacharya, Ramadasu portray the main characters as valiant warriors who fought against the dirty rich for the benefit of innocent poor even though there is little historic evidence to prove these claims. For instance, in Badhrachala Ramadasu’s known history, not one instance is recorded where he fought against any rich for benefit of the poor. On the contrary, it is in fact believed that people of his village didnt keep their promise of paying back the tax money he used to build the temple, which was actually supposed to go to the King’s treasury.

Nothing changed in 1990s or 2000s from the 70s and 80s. The indian movie hero still is the same old socialist cash redistribution officer. The only difference is that today he wears costly jeans, stylish goggles, rides heavy duty bikes and at the same time tells us that poor need justice i.e., cash redistribution. The flawed concept of “justice is equal distribution of money among all people via an all powerful authority” is deeply entrenched in everybody’s mind.

Socialism in all its glory infected movie world in such a way that the concept of “Socialist Hero” in an Indian movie is at least subliminally always present. I mean seriously, how many movies do we have in which the lead character lives by spirit of enterprise and as a principle, seeks value in return of services? Few. There are some very much quotable exceptions even with super stars but in pure numbers, there is no doubt that more often than not, indian movie hero sides with socialists.

Why does this happen? It seems that this happens because of the deep rooted feeling of justice in the form of entitlements among our people. We like to outsource our problems to a “hero” while we enjoy the fruits of the success of that hero. It seems most of us feel entitled to be saved by the powerful hero. This reflects in election campaigns too. That is the reason why every politician knows that in our country, doles work like magic. Free electricity, free food, free TV, free anything, would cause some serious damage to the opponents’ campaigns. Even if common man and/or a farmer laments, it goes unnoticed simply because majority population’s notion is otherwise.

In most of the election campaigns, the politicians paint themselves in the same color as that of an indian movie hero because to put it simply, there is demand for that kind of a figure. So politicians outright lie to us in the face that they will elevate poor through entitlements i.e., robbing from the rich to feed the poor. The question then we have to ask is whether or not entitlements benefit the poor. Milton Friedman explains in a brilliant way how the Government is actually making it worse for the low income population through their welfare schemes like freebies to the poor.

That about explains why Government wants to be the Socialist Indian Movie Hero. That lecture by Milton Friedman also explains exactly why Government leave academic institutions autonomous. It is thus within our hands to show that we do not want our Government to be so. It is thus in our hands to reduce the demand for a socialist hero. Now most of the middle class pay for every service, decent or otherwise. Rich won’t take a stand on the issue because they feel comfortable in their position patronizing the poor and middle class.



  1. syamukamath · · Reply

    Malayalam had bit different movies,at times. Though socialist touch was there, but not the ‘kayamkulam kochunni’ style.:-D

  2. The ‘Robin Hood Myth’ is an interesting paradigm. The core issue is the phenomenon of varying distribution of wealth. Someone said that if you were to distribute all wealth equally, within a finite time the same 10% of population would own 90% of wealth (or 20/80 as the case maybe).
    That said, having an impartial arbiter of wealth distribution or programs to manage that is a Hobson’s choice.
    Would you have a group of middle-class people do it? Or a autocratic government?
    Someone has to do the job and we beat up politicians simply because they step into clean the Augean stables (and profit from it).

    1. DD, welcome back. It is good to have veterans like you with us guiding us ammeters 🙂

      On your comment, I would rather have markets decide wealth distribution because the one who has a smart idea to solve a tough problem should be rewarded. Markets do this. This is the reason why Rockefeller, Henry Ford, Jack Kilby, Viterbi, Steve Jobs and such smart people have such immense respect in field even outside their core expertise. Politicians should be willfully and expressly kept out of the business of wealth distribution by people. But then, people are people and how a person thinks and how a mob thinks are two different things!

  3. I think we agree that the inequalities should be balanced to a point. However the question is who should perform the balancing?
    Friedman’s logic is to poke holes at an existing system while offering a worse solution i.e. ‘trickle down’ economics.
    It is a typical Republican means to absolve the government of any responsibility while ensuring there’s a class difference.
    I would be interested to listen to your solution of the market playing the role of the equalizer.

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