It has taken quite a legal battle for to get this investigative docuseries on to global screens, with one episode still caught up in wrangles. However, the three out of this four-part series that released this week are impactful and watchable in their own right.
The series opens with Vijay Mallya, the self-styled “King of Good Times” as the chief of Kingfisher who was compared to the likes of Richard Branson of the UK’s Virgin Group in his heyday. The beer brand, whose popularity remains intact in India even today, had expanded into the amid what can only be characterised as profligacy in hindsight.
The documentary traces the rise and fall of this infamous Indian billionaire, even as he contests his extradition to India from Britain on charges of fraud and money laundering. We hear from his son, actor-model Sid Mallya, who is convinced that the case is a political witch-hunt. Then there is the plight of the former employees of the doomed Kingfisher Airlines, who are yet to be paid much of their wages and continue to suffer hardships. Even some of his closest allies are forced to admit that his extravagance in the face of unpaid salaries was simply a “bad move”.
The other two episodes follow similar trajectories of two more dubious Indian ex-billionaires – diamond merchant Nirav Modi and Sahara Group chief Subrata Roy. While Modi’s ambition to head India’s first-ever global luxury jewellery brand akin to Cartier or Tiffany’s comes crashing down amid allegations of fraud against the Indian taxpayer, Roy is accused of conning the common man with meagre savings with a dodgy pyramid scheme. Both men have had to serve time behind bars and in Modi’s case, he continues to languish in ’s Wandsworth Prison amid an ongoing extradition trial.
Documentaries are not everyone’s cup of tea but here is a series that crosses over from the fiction-non-fiction divide with its very gripping subject matter and approach. The sheer mix of real-life characters gives it an entertainment edge and the hard to digest facts prove that fact at times really is stranger than fiction. All three cases are fairly well known and covered widely in the media, but what ‘Bad Boy Billionaires’ does well is trace the very roots of some of these controversies. Of the three, the first one on Mallya’s life story is perhaps the most engaging and well crafted.
The fact that each of the cases covered remain an ongoing saga means that a sequel is probably in the offing a few years down the line.