Chhota Rajan’s meteoric rise in the underworld has inspired many Bollywood filmmakers to chronicle his life and times on the big screen.
The 55-year-old fugitive from Mumbai, whose real name is Rajendra Sadashiv Nikalje, was apprehended yesterday in Bali, Indonesia, after being on the run for decades.
Born into a middle class Marathi family, Chhota Rajan took to black marketing of Bollywood film tickets before making his way to crimes like murder, extortion and arms smuggling.
After his mentor Rajan Nair alias Bada Rajan was killed in the 1970s, he took over the gang and earned the name Chhota Rajan.
One of the earliest film which was loosely based on Chhota Rajan’s tumultuous journey was Mahesh Manjrekar’s 1999 crime drama “Vaastav: The Reality”.
The film saw actor Sanjay Dutt play Raghunath ‘Raghu’ Namdev Shivalkhar, an innocent man who gets embroiled in the murky world of crime after an accident.
“Vaastav: The Reality” was incidentally produced by Rajan’s younger brother, Deepak Nikalje. The movie went on to bag many awards and achieved a cult status after its release.
Chhota Rajan became a trusted aide of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and the duo became a deadly combination in Mumbai’s underworld.
However, the serial blasts on March 12, 1993, in which Dawood was one of the conspirators, changed equations between the two. Rajan split with Dawood and started a new phase of what later became fabled rivalry between the two.
Chronicling this split was Ram Gopal Varma’s 2002 crime- drama “Company”. Labelled as a “fictional expose” of the Mumbai underworld, the film was loosely based on the mafia organisation D-Company, known to be run by Dawood.
Actor Vivek Oberoi starred as Chandrakant ‘Chandu’ Nagre while actor Ajay Devgn played the role of N Malik, modelled on the crime lords.
“Company” was the second film in the Indian Gangster trilogy, and a sequel to the blockbuster “Satya”. The film was followed by the last movie in the trilogy “D”, again based on the underworld organisation.
Even though Chota Rajan has not been the centre of many Bollywood films, there have been movies which have brought the life and times of the underworld to celluloid.
From Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s 1989 “Parinda”, which was India’s entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film; to “Agneepath” “Maqbool”, “Khalnayak”, “Shootout at Wadala”, “Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai” (based on the life of Haji Mastaan) and Akshay Kumar starrer “Once Upon a Time in Mumbai Dobaara!”, Bollywood’s fixation with mafia and gangstar stories continues.
Now, actress Sonakshi Sinha, who starred in 2013 Akshay Kumar film, will play Dawood’s sister in the upcoming biopic “Haseena”. The film is directed by Apoorva Lakhia, who helmed another underworld-based movie “Shootout at Lokhandwala” (2007).
Its sequel in 2013 ‘Shootout at Wadala’, a Sanjay Gupta film was based on the first police encounter of gangster Manya Surve.