Crime and punishment: The seedy underbelly of Bollywood
By Manjusha Radhakrishnan, (Gulf News): The brutal murder of young actress Meenakshi Thapa by her conniving colleagues for quick money has all the elements of a gruesome Bollywood thriller.
The naked ambition, deceit and depraved butchery that played starring roles in Thapa’s death underline the grime that exists behind the glamour. tabloid! gives you a round-up of some of the darkest episodes to have marred Bollywood. Happy endings, it seems, are reserved for the silver-screen musicals.
The year 2000 proved to be an eventful period for the Roshans. After successfully launching his son Hrithik in his home production Kaho Na Pyaar Hai, actor-turned-director Rakesh Roshan was basking in the box-office glory when he was attacked by two unidentified assailants outside his Mumbai office. What happened next could have easily been a scene from one of his films.
“Two people came in front of me with revolvers in their hands and they started shooting,” Roshan told reporters after the incident.
“In those few seconds, I ducked four or five times and missed five bullets, but one bullet got me,” he added. Shocked at the incident, his son Hrithik almost quit the industry — it was suspected that extortion calls and death threats had been made to coerce Roshan Jr. into acting in a mob-backed film.
In the 1980s and 1990s, it was believed that Mumbai’s underworld had a tight rein on Bollywood proceedings. The shocking daylight killing of Bollywood producer and music baron Gulshan Kumar in 1997 underlined that presence. Though the police accused music composer Nadeem of the contract killing and suspected dreaded gangster Abu Salem’s involvement, authorities were not able to stack enough evidence to prove the same. It was believed that Kumar, the founder of music company T-series, was gunned down after his refusal to pay extortion money to gangsters.
The casting couch is one of the worst kept secrets in Bollywood. But a sting operation in 2005, which showed comedian Shakti Kapoor making sexual advances to a journalist who posed as an aspiring actress, was a death knell to his career. Unlike Dutt or Khan, Kapoor was not able to shrug off the lecherous tag easily. He was last seen as an inmate in the reality show Bigg Boss. He didn’t win.
When it comes to having a chequered past, there’s no beating Dutt. Though his drug addiction was well-documented, it was his alleged terrorist links to that sent shock waves in the industry. In July 2007, the actor was sentenced to six years in jail for buying weapons from bombers who attacked Mumbai in 1993. In the epic trial that last 14 years, Dutt was in and out of prison and served a total of 18 months behind bars before he was let out on bail. He was originally arrested on suspicion of involvement in the bombings, but was acquitted of terrorism and conspiracy charges. Surprisingly, Bollywood’s macho hero didn’t have any trouble finding work. Even today, he’s one of the most bankable stars and has delivered hits including the Munnabhai series and Agneepath.
The Ganster hero shiney Ahuja had a sparkling clean image until his domestic help accused him of raping her in June 2009 at his residence. Though his wife stood by him stoically, Ahuja was sentenced to seven years rigorous imprisonment. Ahuja is currently out on bail and has appealed his conviction.
This Mumbai-based television producer paid a heavy price for having links with struggling Kannada actress Maria Susairaj. The brutal crime of passion occurred in May 2008, when her fiancé, Naval Officer Emile Mathew, discovered Grover in Susairaj’s apartment, stabbed him to death and hacked the body to pieces. The duo then drove to the neighbouring Thane district and burnt the severed body. Meanwhile, Controversial Bollywood director Ram Gopal Varma was more than happy to offer a role to Susairaj upon her prison release, although she didn’t take him up on the offer. His film ‘Not A Love Story’, loosely inspired by the grisly murder, released last year.
This outspoken actress has been labelled as the ‘only man in Bollywood’. The reason? When actors such as Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan retracted their statements, in court, about receiving threatening calls from extortionists in early 2000 during the making of Chori Chori Chupke Chupke, Zinta stuck to her stand. For her brave gesture, she was awarded the Godrej Philips National Bravery Award in 2003.
In 1995, Monica Bedi was one of the many Bollywood hopefuls who head to Mumbai to try their luck in showbusiness. But legend has it that her struggle was tough and she turned to real-life underworld don Abu Salem to nab roles in films. In 2002, Bedi who was seen in two-bit roles in films such as Jaanam Samjha Karo and Jodi No 1, was arrested in Lisbon along with her companion Salem — one of India’s most wanted men, accused of masterminding a series of bombings that killed more than 250 people in Mumbai in 1993. Bedi was sentenced to two years in prison for using forged documents. These days, Bedi shuttles between Mumbai and Nepal trying to revive her flagging career by appearing in reality shows and B-grade films.
If an award was instituted for Bollywood’s best bad boy, then Khan would be a strong contender. He has a number of criminal charges levelled against him including drunken driving, hit-and-run case where he ran people over with his car and hunting down endangered black Bucks. But like Dutt, Khan is still worshipped and is one of Bollywood’s leading heroes today.
Preeti Jain and Madhur Bhandarkar: He’s an award-winning director with a penchant for unearthing the seamier sides of the corporate and the fashion circles in his films, while she’s the small-town girl who dreamt of making it big in Bollywood. In July 2004, Jain accused Bhandarkar of rape on the pretext of giving her a lead role in his film.
In her recorded statement, Jain alleged: “We had sex 16 times and Madhur made promises of giving me a lead role in his films. However, he didn’t offer me a lead role in any of his movies. At times when I refused, he raped me.” Things took a nastier turn when it was learnt that the struggling actress hired a contract killer for Rs70,000 to get rid of Bhandarkar in 2005. She was arrested and released on bail. Currently, Bhandarkar – who’s busy shooting for his ambitious project Heroine, with Kareena Kapoor, is breathing easy since the Supreme Court has stayed criminal proceedings against him.