Duniya ki gaadi kaa pahiya, tu chor tu hi sipahiya, raajon kaa raaja rupaiya
When Mohammad Rafi sang this song penned by Shailendra and filmed on Dev Anand in Kala Bazaar in 1960, he could not have envisioned the long queues outside banks and ATM machines in Indian metropolis cities 66 years hence. But the power of currency, or the lack of it, has ensured that suddenly nobody is talking about the smog in Delhi, the clash between Chacha and Bhatija in Uttar Pradesh and cross-border skirmishes.
Money is the biggest leveller, and currency notes and counterfeit money have always provided fodder for the imagination of many a filmmaker and lyricist in Bollywood over the years.
The plot of the noirish Kala Bazar, directed by Vijay Anand, where a poor conductor fired from his job turns to marketing movie tickets in black, including a scene at the premiere of Mother India (1957), where he sells a Rupee 2 ticket for Rs 100, sticks in one’s mind.
One of my teenage memories is watching Jackie Shroff and Anil Kapoor in the 1989 remake of Kala Bazaar by Rakesh Roshan. The film tackled the subjects of bribery and corruption in government departments but failed to make waves on the box office.
Another of my favourite pop culture things featuring money include Maalamal, the 1988 comedy featuring the effortless Naseeruddin Shah, based on the 1902 novel Brewster’s Millions, written by George Barr McCutcheon. The incredible storyline involves a cricketer who has to spend 300 million rupees in 30 days in order to inherit his grandfather’s wealth. The film also featured Little Master Sunil Gavaskar in a cameo.
As I stand in an ATM queue outside Allahabad Bank, I feel like listening to these numbers on the loop:
1. Tuh paisa, paisa karti hai to paise se kyon darti hai from De Dana Dan (2009).
2. Na biwi na bachha na baap bada na maiyan...the whole thing is that ke bhaiya sabse bada rupaiya from Bluffmaster (2005)
3. Aamdani athanni, kharcha rupaiya featuring Prithviraj Kapoor from Teen Bahuraniyan (1968)
4. Dil dildaara mera teli ka tel/ Kaudi kaudi paisa paisa/ Paise ka khel from Kaminey (2009)
And in the context of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes going defunct and the paucity of change:
5. Yeh jo thode se hain paise, kharch tum par karoon kaise from Papa Kehte Hain sung by Kumar Sanu and featuring Jugal Hansraj (1996)