Oct 18, 2008

Entertainment - Bollywood brings credit crisis to screen

MUMBAI: The global credit crisis has found echoes in an unlikely quarter, Bollywood, known more for its love of lavish musicals and racy thrillers. Global crisis reflected in Hindi film EMI by debutant writer-director Saurabh Kabra.

The crisis, that has inspired "credit crunch" chocolate bars and "meltdown" parties in the West, is reflected in a new Hindi film "EMI," or Equated Monthly Installments, by debutant writer-director Saurabh Kabra. It is set for release later this month.

EMI is an acronym that millions of middle-class Indians are familiar with, as it allowed them to buy everything from washing machines to fancy cars, homes and vacations at a time when banks were eager to lend and credit was cheap.

But as interest rates rose -- with the central bank raising key interest rates by 125 basis points in 2008 alone -- borrowers baulked and banks began to tighten the leash on lending.

"EMI," which stars actors Sanjay Dutt, Urmila Matondkar and Arjun Rampal, is a tale of the lives of disparate characters who live off credit cards and personal loans, and a recovery agent who makes them realise the folly of their ways.

"The movie is really about ordinary, middle-class people who get caught in an endless cycle of loans and credit cards," said Gayatri Singh, creative head for distributor Sahara One Motion Pictures.

The characters include a DJ who defaults on more than a dozen credit cards to impress his girlfriends, a man who takes a loan to send his son abroad to study and a socialite who charges her indulgences to her credit cards.

Sattar Bhai, the recovery agent who chases down defaulters, is "soft-hearted," Singh says, in contrast to agents who have come under fire in India for being aggressive and using force.

Credit card use is still low, but expanding at a fast pace in the country and Indians, traditionally credit-averse, are embracing their use more easily.

The film also comes on the heels of a mass suicide by a family of four in Mumbai, India's financial hub, who reportedly killed themselves over mounting debts on dozens of credit cards.

"We wanted to keep it light and release it in time for the festival season when everyone is buying things, to remind people they should be careful about extending themselves," Singh said.

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