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Apr 05, 2016 at 09:17

Here’s Why Amitabh Bachchan Has The Most To Lose In The Panama Papers Leak

by Arun George

There are icons for correctness in public life, and then there's Amitabh Bachchan. He's the face that can sell anything from cement to chyawanprash because everyone loves and trusts him so much.

The once angry young man, who became the untouchable superstar, then fell flat on his face, and finally emerged the lovable father/grandfather/uncle figure of India. He advises us what to buy, tells us what government schemes are out there, never says anything rude (except to Andrew Flintoff in jest) and is the nation's most politically correct voice in most scenarios on social media.

But the man has always had his controversies.

Remember the disastrous outing with the Congress in the 1980s? That gradually got buried under a body of work that saw him rise to the top of Bollywood. There was also the ABCL collapse, which he emerged from to build a second innings and reaffirm his status as perhaps the most trustworthy celebrity in the nation.

Amitabh Bachchan. AFP

And now there are the Panama Papers. Face it, the biggest name among the Indians revealed isn't DLF's KP Singh, Indiabulls Sameer Gehlaut, or Aishwarya Rai. It's undoubtedly Amitabh Bachchan.

For one simple reason, he stands to lose the most. While the others risk prosecution, a rap on the wrists and some loss of face, the septugenarian stands to lose all of that, And one more crucial thing: the trust he's built up over decades.

It might explain his silence on the matter. While the other big names have denied, given lengthy explanations or even justified it, there's been nothing but an eerie silence from the baritone that most in the nation can identify. No tweet. No blog post. His company didn't talk about it with Indian Express, who broke the story in India, and their mails reportedly went unanswered.

But don't expect this to last. The actor, who is exceptionally politically correct, has two options before him.

He could copy his daughter-in-law and outright deny everything. Claim that he never made such investments. 

Like Putin's men he can claim that the expose has been done by the CIA. He can claim such shipping companies never existed and the whole thing is just an attempt to make him look bad.

Amitabh Bachchan. AFP


Or he could do a mea culpa. Admit he was a superstar at the height of his powers and making more money than he knew what to do with. That he didn't, like every taxed Indian, want to pay taxes. That he had a terrible accountant who told him to do it, and being a taxed Indian, he just went with it.

That like a vexed character from a film has been wringing his hands ever since the expose, now just wants to tell the truth, face the law and move on with life. Like the good Indian that he is, he just wants to do what's right.

But that could have consequences. Incredible India doesn't want a brand ambassador who avoids paying taxes, whether to a Congress government or otherwise. Voices of conscience tell you to pay your taxes, not about British Virgin Island companies that are made to order by shady lawfirms. Bachchan has shown an innate ability to wriggle out of controversies by either burying his head in (celluloid) sand and waiting for the storm of the day to pass.

And as the ABCL, and other crisis in the past have shown, it's always helped the actor to have friends in high places. This time he's got one in the highest seat of power in the country, one whose campaigns he's endorsed while he was still a chief minister. The government has promised action on the basis of the papers that will have to be verified, investigated and only then proceeded on.

For Bachchan, that means some time to assess what stand he wants to take. For Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it's also a period of contemplation. After all, can he allow a man accused of sending money abroad illegally, become the face of India and his government's tourism campaign across the world?

Feature image source: AFP

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