Sparkling, very still: An uber rich life

Going past the types of television shows that audiences enjoy, the world seems to be in a mood of weary acceptance, or waiting for a bad period. If stories of rich complexity, combining humans and mythical creatures such as in Game of Thrones and House of The Dragon have great appeal, it must be because these Covid years have been wildly unpredictable. When reality seems surreal, only fantasy can portray life.

If art reflects life and we are torn between fake news and alternative facts, it is no wonder then that reality TV, ironically enough, feels like artificial fiction. Netflix’s Dubai Bling, the latest example of cringeworthy banality in this category, rehashes all the usual tropes we’ve come to expect in a drama centered around wealthy, socially prominent women: flashy cars, labels designers, and cheesy dinner dates that involve a helicopter. . (Similar scenes appear on The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives and Selling Sunset). However, behind the glamorous socialites gliding from soirees to nightclubs, there is a glamorous, golden hue shining off the towering skyscrapers – by far the most interesting character on Dubai Bling is the a glittering metropolis itself.

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In some circles, Dubai is jokingly referred to as the best city in India. According to government data, over 4,000 High Net Worth Indians have relocated as NRIs to the global hub of the UAE this year itself. The reasons are many. It is a start to ensure that their children who go to high school can easily transfer to the West for college. Some claim it’s for a better lifestyle—after all, who, in their right mind, would continue to breathe Delhi’s toxic air or deal with clogged infrastructure in Mumbai and Bangalore if given the choice? Others worry about the constant socio-political-economic churning in India. No doubt, however, the main motivation to move stems from convenient loopholes in Dubai’s investment policies that allow crazy businessmen to escape control, and avoid nosy tax sleuths from the formidable Enforcement Directorate here.

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Because the very rich everywhere want to protect their wealth, Dubai is teeming with industrialists, successful performance artists and aristocrats from its other unstable neighbors such as Pakistan, Lebanon and Iran. The nice result is that it’s an exotic playground of rich expats and retirees, whose lives are not dissimilar to the main characters of Dubai Bling.

The existence of a transnational NRI has many financial advantages, as long as one can philosophically accept that the cost of growing one’s bank balance is misery (in the hierarchy of disasters that fall to 90% of humanity, this is not even qualify as matter). Still, someone should make a reality show about millionaire NRIs perched in their towers in fiery purgatory, twiddling their thumbs, the only occupation being managing their wealth, which takes exactly 45 minutes a day. What to do for the rest of the 16 hours awake for 182 days? (The rules are, NRI’s cannot be physically present in India for more than six months a year, and cannot work in Dubai). So, the rich NRI’s biggest problem is that despite its sparkling streets and vibrant night life, time hangs heavy. The day, spent between spa, gym, salon – and the myriad other pleasures of idleness – fades quickly. Living outside the boundaries of conventional employment is isolating, even if you’re surrounded by an international jet set who face the same problem of ennui.

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“Here’s to alcohol, the rose-colored glasses of life,” grumbles the scattered hero of Scott F Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and Damned, whose great fortune kills his ambition but lack of purpose creates an oppressive void. The central theme of Dubai Bling carries the excesses of the jazz age, now played in the city’s diaspora. Problems don’t stop. Even when the senses are satisfied a thousand times over, there is an exhausting idleness to contend with.

The writer is director, Huttay Films


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