This weekend, I had an opportunity to catch up with Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, a much hyped movie about financial services and the recent catastrophe in USA. This is a sequel of the original Wall Street, which all aspiring MBAs as well as financial services prospective employees and employers watched again and again. I too saw the movie during my MBA, though at that time was not sure about my future career prospects. This was supposed to be the movie to watch and understand corporate finance and stock markets. For someone who started his basic academic career in finance with a D, I could not much make head or tail, and frankly thought that the movie was over-hyped. Years later, I again saw the movie, while swapping channels on Star Movies or HBO and this time around, although I saw a part of the movie, I appreciated it much more given the fact, at least I had gained some understanding of financial services space, especially broking.
There are some movies which are on everyone’s watch list, something similar to the books on everyone’s must read list and places which are on to visit list. Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children was one such book when I was in college. This gave birth to the Group of 69. Before you get any out of the box ideas, the group stood for people who could not go beyond 69 pages. Without the Internet, how someone got that statistic is beyond me. I was one of those persistent characters who managed to read the entire book, though I do not remember anything. It was on one of my auto flagellation trips when I had nothing better to do. The only memories I have of that book is Nargisi Kofta and the fortune teller behind Red Fort. The other such book was Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. These are books which help you in your job interviews or when you want to impress someone. Unfortunately I belonged to the Govinda/ Mithun da school of movies and James Hadley Chase school of books. I really enjoyed Taleb (of Black Swan fame) when he used to make potential candidates applying for quant analysts job play an actual game of chess with Russians when they said that their favorite game was chess.
Some commonalities are seen across stock markets - cold calling, tolerating clients’ abuses, servicing HNI customers etc. The current movie Money Never Sleeps, is less to do with events which rocked the globe in the second half of 2008 and more to do with a study of human relationships. There are multiple relationships explored in this movie, employee - mentor, prospective father-in-law - son-in-law, father - daughter, potential husband – wife, in short Things Beyond Money. This is not the place or movie to watch if you want to understand the ABS, CDS, and other such acronyms. It neither explains the events that led to the catastrophe nor throws much light on the personalities involved; it basically is about how human egos work and how people carry even small grudges to the grave and try to take revenge. Revenge is a very strong word but basically it means getting even.
India has a derogatory reference in the movie – they show an Indian cab driver driving rashly and abusing in Hindi and the mentor talking or referring to Mumbai as Dumbai. It was not very clear whether he meant the investment analyst sitting in Bombay or the BPO person sitting in Bombay, but I leave it at that. The take is that greed is universal and even those at high places getting million dollar salaries can’t resist the temptation to make an extra buck on the side.
This is a story of Gordon Gekko fighting for his resurrection, taking all steps he can to make a comeback. In any market, there is nothing that succeeds more than success and hence the moment you’re successful, people come looking for you and when you’re down in the dumps nobody cares for you. For the rock and blues fans, listen to Eric Clapton singing “Nobody knows you when you’re down and out”. Fund managers are aware of this feeling – rising NAVs make it so easy to garner funds.
There are certain things in this movie which appear too good to be true or should I use “bollywoodish”. How easy was it for the sales person to get information about the sellers in a particular stock. I thought people in Wall Street are smarter and build layers between the front and the actual beneficiary. Even a high school drop out will not leave such a solid trail.
Markets are flirting with their all time highs and paanwala stock tips are the talk of town. I hope a similar movie about Dalal Street is made with some insights on the present big bulls. Not many of this age will connect with the earlier Big Bull - the late Harshad Mehta. I know attempts have been made like Gafla in 2006 and some so called comedy Saas, Bahu Aur Sensex in 2008, both of which bombed at the box office. Apparently, the latest Ranbir Kapoor-Priyanka Chopra starrer ‘Anjaana Anjaani’ also has Ranbir losing a fortune in the stock market crash and predictably the movie doesn’t seem to get much attention.
Or maybe Amir Khan could research the subject and do a movie on the stock market. I know he takes long to deliver. But then stock markets are known to benefit those who can afford to hold on for the long term.