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No song and dance for the Birla family

The world of Indian movies is dominated by songs, dances and drama – lots of it. And now, one family business has found itself in the midst of it all due to the lyrics of a song in an upcoming Bollywood film.

The world of Indian movies is dominated by songs, dances and drama – lots of it. And now, one family business has found itself in the midst of it all due to the lyrics of a song in an upcoming Bollywood film.

The Birla family, which controls multi-billion-dollar conglomerate the Aditya Birla Group, has sent a legal notice to Prakash Jha – the director of a new film called Chakravyuh– objecting to a song in the movie.

Some of the song’s lyrics have focused on three of the largest family-run groups in the country, including Birla, and a Swiss company, suggesting they have exploited the poor for their own benefit.

“Birla ho ya Tata, Ambani ho ya Bata, sabne apne chakkar mein des ko hai kaata, are humre hi khoon se inka engine chale dhakadhak”, so go the lyrics to the Hindi song. When translated, it reads: “Be it Birla or Tata, Ambani or Bata, everyone has exploited the nation for their own benefit, with their engines running on our blood.” Media reports suggest Bata, also family-controlled, was included simply to rhyme with Tata.

In a notice sent to Jha, the Birlas have reportedly asked for the company’s name to be removed from the song within the next 48 hours.

“The lyrics are false, malicious, baseless and frivolous besides being uncharitable, abominable, reckless, mischievous and defamatory and ... have been made with ulterior motives,” said the notice, according to the Economic Times.

Despite the film carrying a disclaimer saying the names used in the song are not meant to harm or disrespect any individual or brand, the family reckons the lyrics will affect the company’s reputation. The group, which has revenues of around $40 billion (€31 billion), has interests in metals, cement, agriculture and financial services.

Chakravyuh, which stars top Indian actors including Arjun Rampal and Abhay Deol, will be released in India on 24 October.

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