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Private Enterprise, A (1974)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Shiv Verma works in a Birmingham factory and takes dancing lessons in his spare time to help improve his social skills as part of his plan to become an entrepreneur, making plastic Indian elephants for what he believes is an emerging market.

But all is not well at the factory: a colleague of theirs is organizing a strike in protest at the lay-off of ten men. Shiv grabs what spare time he can to ring an estate agent about available properties for his proposed workshop. The union agitator successfully obtaining a majority show of hands. He asks Shiv and his flatmate Ashok whether he'll join them. Ashok readily agrees, but Shiv says he's too busy.

Bearing a large suitcase, Shiv walks into a café and tries to sell one of his plastic elephants - but despite offering increasingly large discounts the proprietor isn't interested. The estate agent shows Shiv and Ashok round the 'workshop', which turns out to be a derelict building. Undaunted, Shiv outlines his plans to transform it, and calls the pessimistic Ashok a wet blanket.

Shiv goes to his Uncle Ramji, proprietor of Victoria Cushions, to try to obtain a loan for his business. Uncle says that he needs a wife instead, and that he's much better off buying an existing business, such as his own. Shiv refuses, whereupon Uncle proposes an arranged marriage with import-export businessman Kapur's daughter, who can offer a generous dowry.

Shiv goes to London to meet Mr Kapur, who advises him not to start a business without consulting his horoscope before telling him about his own success importing goods from Hong Kong. He proposes that Verma takes his daughter Chandra to lunch. He does so, but discovers that she has no interests beyond shopping and parties, and is clearly a woman of expensive tastes. On the train back, Shiv falls into conversation with Penny, a young English woman who is fascinated by India.

Shiv expresses his unhappiness at having to stand on the picket line to the union agitator, who points out that he's only down to do four days a week.

Verma goes to the Indian spiritual centre that Penny was telling him about. Penny introduces him to the guru Swami Jayanta, assuming they'll have a lot in common. Shiv invites her to the cinema, and she insists on seeing an Indian film. They agree to go on Saturday, despite a clash with an important union meeting.

The meeting is a disaster, but the date is much more successful - until Penny insists on going to a sleazy café in order to experience current teenage fads. When they come out, she finds her car has been vandalized.

Shiv's Uncle tells him how much Kapur liked him and how his horoscope matches Chandra. Shiv protests that he cannot marry a stupid girl. Uncle points out the financial and material benefits of Chandra's dowry. Shiv says he wants all that, but from his own efforts. Uncle refuses to give him a loan.

Shiv is shown round another property. The estate agent describes its derelict surroundings as 'a redevelopment area'. He tries and fails to sell more elephants, discounting the price to less than half the original quote.

The factory management bus in workers from nearby Gatley. A fight breaks out as they attempt to cross the picket line, and Ashok is injured. He refuses to talk to Shiv, who was not present.

Shiv rings Penny, who invites him to a party at her parents' house. There, the only people he can find to talk to are her parents, while Penny seems more interested in a flamboyant black man. Shiv leaves.

Shiv and his Uncle are reconciled, and Shiv agrees to work for his company. After telling him that the strike has succeeded, Ashok moves out of the bedsit. Uncle's factory burns down, killing him. Shiv talks to Kapur after the funeral, and says that he's still welcome to come to London.

Ashok apologises for not attending the funeral, and offers to move back in with Shiv. Though Shiv refuses, the two men embrace at the station. On the train to London, Ashok smiles at a white child, whose mother pointedly turns it away.