The dreaded calls from members of the mafiosi are back in headlines producer-director Karan Johar,singer Sonu Niigaam and producer Boney Kapoor are the notable fraternity members reported to have been at the receiving end.
Almost 20 years after investigations of the Mumbai bomb blasts revealed the presence of the underworld in movies,the dons clearly,are trying to get back into show business.
The developments hark back to the dark days of the ’90s when the underworld had penetrated the film industry and was holding several film financiers and producers to ransom with its threats.
The film industry till then,an unorganised industry,with very few legit funding sources at hand was easy prey. A government regulation made films ineligible for bank credit,private equity and other legitimate funding resulting in producers raising the required funds through their personal assets mortgaging their homes or taking loans from private financiers at very high interest rates.
Individual financiers with money from undeclared dubious sources were therefore a viable recourse that some members resorted to. Financial disputes too were settled by using the underworld clout. Over time the proximity increased and it was not uncommon to hear of actors performing at shaadis in Dubai or meetings in cricket matches in Sharjah,presumably due to fear of retribution that a refusal could attract.
But the dangers of playing into their hands was revealed when music moghul Gulshan Kumar of T-series was shot dead in suburban Mumbai.
Even director-producer Rakesh Roshan was shot at,as was Rajiv Rai. Back then,the gangster interest in showbiz came on the heels of the slump in the construction business when builders,who until then were targets of blackmail were unable to cough up the fancy ransoms.
The fear and the helplessness among the fraternity was such that people like Rajiv Rai (director/producer) wrapped up their business and left the country.
In the subsequent crackdown by the police,diamond Merchant Bharat Shah was arrested for withholding information and in 2001 Nazim Rizvi,the producer of Chori Chori Chupke Chupke,was sentenced to six years imprisonment.
Things,however,have changed for the better ever since. And though talk of black money flowing into film production persists,it is an indisputable fact that the arrival of studios and corporate funding has brought about greater transparency and strengthened the business.
And while gangsters continue to be fascinating subjects for movies,mingling with the mob in any capacity is no longer a feat to brag about.
That a film like D-Day in which a character inspired by Dawood Ibrahim,(played by Rishi Kapoor) was brought to his knees on Indian soil,perhaps displays the popular sentiment within the industry.
Given the looming economic meltdown,threats may persist because as they say,there is no recession in the film industry,but bonafide producers can now seek protection from the law without hesitation.
Don Corleones immortal line in The Godfather,”I’ll make him an offer he cant refuse” may be the gangster sentiment. Only,Bollywood aint taking up the offer anymore.