ON FEBRUARY 21, the staff and students of a private college near Banur eagerly awaited the arrival of superstar Amitabh Bachchan. They were told that the legendary actor would be in their college for a book launch. The wait, however, proved futile.
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This was not the only college. As many as eight colleges in Chandigarh and neighbouring areas were duped by a fraudster who charged a hefty amount on the pretext of getting Bachchan to their colleges.
The man first promised a role to a Chandigarh-based woman artist Dr Deepti with Bachchan, posing as a nephew of director Mahesh Bhatt and then duped many budding actors and actresses who were in contact with the woman on the pretext of giving them roles in his upcoming Punjabi movie. The man duped eight educational institutes to the tune of Rs 44 lakh by arranging a fake book launch programme and Bachchan’s interaction with the students. Kharar police booked the fraudster who escaped from his residence.
The fraudster, identified as Harry Bhatt alias Avinash alias Bhai Vaidya, got the management of Swami Parmanand College near Banur to organise a function on February 21. The district police even made security arrangements for the function and set up route but Bachchan never came, said the officials.
When contacted, Dr Renu, director-principal of Swami Parmanand College, said that the event was to be organised in their college. She, however, refused to divulge more details.
Dr Deepti, who gave the complaint to the Kharar police, told Chandigargh Newsline that she met Harry at a function in December last year where he offered her a role in his upcoming Punjabi movie Ek Duje De Vaste. The accused also signed an agreement with Dr Deepti saying that she would act as a heart surgeon alongside Bachchan who was essaying the role of an Army doctor in the film.
She said that she signed the agreement on January 8 this year, following which the accused also told her that he wanted to arrange some functions in educational institutes for Bachchan where he would release his father Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s book.
“I got programmes arranged at eight colleges, including Parimal College, DAV College in Sector 10 and Chitkara University. Harry charged Rs 5.5 lakh from each college as fee. He also promised that he would give me Rs 2 crore for my role in his film,” she said.
DAV College, Sector 10, Chandigarh, principal B C Joshan confirmed that a function was scheduled at their college.
It is when Bachchan did not come to the Swami Parmanand College, his first stop, that Dr Deepti got suspicious. She went to Harry’s Kharar residence to find that he had left along with his wife. She added that Harry also ran a studio at Kharar, Club 360, near Sunny Enclave.
Nidhi Sharma, an actress who did a small role in Ek Duje De Vaaste that is yet to be completed, said that the accused first took Rs 70,000 to prepare her portfolio and then charged Rs 15,000 more for make-up and other expenses.
Harry also duped Hobby Dhaliwal of Rs 24 lakh on the pretext of giving a contract of vehicles which were to be used for film promotion. The accused asked Dhaliwal to provide 24 cars and asked him to deposit some security.
A case under sections 420 (cheating), 467 (forgery), 471 (using as genuine a forged document), 465 and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was registered against Harry Bhatt and his accomplice Yogesh Goel, who is a manager in a private bank and helped him in the fraud, as well as an unknown person.
Police officials said that after the registration of the case, they had received seven complaints from people who were either promised roles in films or other work.