Among the must-sees of the season is the movie Raid, a film inspired by real life income tax raids in the 1980s. Officers of the Indian Revenue Service share, in great detail, the manner in which a raid is actually conducted by an Income Tax department. It makes for a compelling film, a slice of life that you were not party to. It tells the story of a time when the media was not as frenzied and outlines of raids were not drawn out in sand by media persons even as the raid was being conducted.

Set in Lucknow in 1981 Raid follows the unfurling of a series of unfortunate events, unfortunate for the local MLA that is. On receiving a lead, a scrupulous income tax officer Patnaik (played by Ajay Devgn) sets out to investigate the wealth and businesses of a local political leader, Tauji (played by Saurabh Shukla). Ill-gotten cash worth Rs. 420 crores is reported to be hidden in Tauji’s joint family mansion. The movie stars Ileana D’Cruz as Mrs. Patnaik and Amit Sial as an income-tax officer who is in cahoots with the businessmen of the area and terrified of upsetting the local businessmen.

Three events purportedly inspired the film.

Sharda Prasad Pandey, the Income Tax commissioner of Lucknow, led the longest-running Income Tax raid in India’s history in 1981. IT officials raided the house of a businessman and Congress MLA, Sardar Inder Singh in Kanpur on July 16, 1981. 200 police officers were also present for the safety of the Income Tax officers. Forty five officers were present just for counting the notes! According to Prem Prakash Srivastava, an income tax officer, properties of 15 other members of the family were raided simultaneously and the job took over a month. Inder Singh’s wife, said India Today that carried the story, is the sister-in-law of Suresh Ram, son of the former Union minister Jagjivan Ram.

There were two other income tax raids on 14th September 1989, on the factories and homes of paper mill owner Harish Chhabra and jeweler Chitranjan Swarup. Eighty-eight officers were tasked with finding the black money assets of these two men. During the raid word got out that Chhabra’s assets were being raided, and he managed to get a mob to attack the income tax officials, despite the presence of police there. A number of Income Tax officials were brutally beaten up. A lot of them were hospitalized and some were forever paralyzed. To add to the humiliation, the officers who raided Chhabra’s factory were stripped naked and beaten.

Inspired by the above stories of heroism by the income tax officers, director Raj Kumar Gupta decided to make the film Raid. “The press wasn’t as widespread back then, so the information in the public domain was limited,” said Gupta. “A lot of heroic stories have gotten lost from those times. I hope to highlight them.”

The film, seen as a docudrama, is a compelling watch. Aside from the tweetable one-liners and a typical large Indian joint family parade of characters, it brings to life the unsung heroes of the Income Tax department who are more vilified than appreciated in everyday life.

Ritu Marwah is the features editor of India Currents. Her father worked in Customs and Excise.

 

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