Last week, there were reports confirming that a meeting took place between Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and Mahesh Bhatt about Bollywood filmmakers receiving threat calls from the underworld.
The chief minister has assured Bollywood that all such threats will be dealt with very severely by the police and anybody who comes forward with any such complaint will be provided with police protection.
Though people are talking about it in hushed tones, police sources confirm that prominent producers in Bollywood are reeling under an underworld threat. Out of the ones who have received threats over the past two months, only two filmmakers have come forward and lodged a police complaint. They are Boney Kapoor and Karan Johar. In both cases, it was a death threat.
Sources say that there are four other filmmakers who have also communicated to the police about receiving threat calls but did not lodge an official complaint. The Mumbai police too, for the sake of their investigations, are strictly monitoring the cellphones of the four filmmakers.
Apart from them, sources say that investigations till now indicate that calls were made to at least nine other filmmakers and actors. For some reason, they haven’t come forward and informed police. The police hopes that if all of them complain officially and most importantly, provide some vital clues about the callers, they can draw a map of the criminals and their locations. The cellphones of these filmmakers and actors are being monitored according to sources.
But despite all assurances from the police and now the chief minister, the police hasn’t been able to make much of a headway into the cases.
In order to get to the root of the problem, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde has proposed to the Department of Homeland Security in the US that a joint operation be launched to nab gangster Dawood Ibrahim. However, everybody knows that Shinde’s proposal is just a device to attract media attention because Dawood is holed up in Islamabad. The US predictably hasn’t responded to the proposal till date.
Why is it that the police is finding it extremely difficult to trace these calls or nab the caller? Before that, a little bit of history to underline how the underworld’s influence on Bollywood has gone through a change.
How Bollywood’s romance with the underworld went wrong
Truth be told, Bollywood isn’t new to threat calls from the underworld. When Dawood Ibrahim’s and Chhota Rajan’s networks were active in Mumbai, threat calls were routinely made to filmmakers. During the 1990s, when other sources of income were drying up for the underworld, many in Bollywood found themselves as a target.
In a strange twist of fate, after allegedly courting the underworld and reportedly accepting cash from them to make numerous films, many in Bollywood were struggling to meet the demands of the dons. The same underworld which was routinely ghost financing films now started demanding money when their income started drying up. Bollywood tried to make peace with them but these guys were not interested in small changes.They wanted to be paid a lump sum the same way they allegedly invested money in some films.
It was during that time, that many filmmakers started to defy the underworld which had started demanding obscene amounts of money. As the underworld’s threat calls were not working, they started hitting back at Bollywood. A series of shoot-outs took place during this period and mainly those producers who dared to defy them were targeted.
According to police records producer Mukesh Duggal was killed on March 7, 1997, the same year when Gulshan Kumar was brutally gunned down. Three years later, Ajit Deewani (Manisha Koirala’s ex-secretary) was fatally shot on June 30, 2000. The same year producer Rajeev Rai got kidnapped and a bullet was fired at Rakesh Roshan.
But despite these incidents, a few in Bollywood continued to court the underworld though the threats had come down considerably due to intense police action. By 2010, the Mumbai police almost cut off the Dubai-Mumbai hotline as Dawood got cornered in Pakistan and Abu Salem was firmly behind bars.
By 2013, the underworld had only made a comeback as film subjects until fresh reports of threats to Boney kapoor and Karan Johar surfaced.
Who are making these calls?
A police officers I spoke to admitted that Bollywood and the underworld hadn’t really lost touch. He added that the calls made to Boney Kapoor and Karan Johar were not exactly from the underworld that we knew.
“The calls to Boney Kapoor were made by Ravi Pujari who is hiding somewhere in India. Boney had filed a complaint of robbery last year and two of Pujari’s accomplices were caught. These calls were not exactly for extortion,” said the officer. The Mumbai police had detailed the case to some newspapers too.
The phone calls made and texts sent to Karan Johar were also of some other nature which the police did not want to reveal for the sake of investigations.
So, what is the difference between the calls made 10 years back and now? I will try to chart them out here.
1. The calls cannot be traced back easily: It is very difficult to trace these calls because they were made through the internet. It’s similar like the call function on Gmail. So, the calls don’t originate from typical mobile numbers that are easy to detect.
2. The IPs are routed through proxy servers: There are several proxy servers on the internet that re-route your connection through other IP networks ( a typical example would be that of the Tor network). So, basically you call a network, it calls another network and though this your call or text message reaches a mobile phone. In most cases, the immediate network can be traced but it is very difficult to trace the maze of networks from which the call or the text emerged. So it seems that internet telephony has come in very handy for the gangsters. In Boney Kapoor’s case the caller identified himself as Ravi Pujari but in Karan’s case it was not possible to trace the person through the number that flashed on the screen. In most similar cases, the number that flashed on the mobile screen was just a country code (like +91 for India) and nothing else.
3. Who made these calls: Sources say that gangsters operating in India, and not abroad, are making these calls.That’s a little scary. The Mumbai police has already identified two gangster networks who are making these calls and are trying to trace them. The police doesn’t want any negative publicity right now specially after the Shakti Mills gangrape case. So, Mumbai Police’s message to these gangsters is very simple. ‘Lay off from Bollywood otherwise there will be a crackdown’.
4. Why are these calls being made? Interestingly, some of these calls are technically investment calls and not extortion calls. Police sources say that a number of these criminals want to launder money through Bollywood films and hence some of the filmmakers have received ‘directions’ to take up certain projects which they may not want to for various reasons. There have also been calls made to include some people with dubious backgrounds as co-investors in films. Obviously, some Bollywood filmmakers are unwilling to comply. Hence all the gussa.
5. What is the police doing? The filmmakers who have complained of threats have been provided with armed police bodyguards. They have also been issued a series of directives about how to move in public to avoid being exposed to these criminals. Sources say that at least five more filmmakers have been put under 24-hour surveillance with their cell phone locations being constantly tracked by the police because they have a threat to their lives. Though I don’t have the exact number, a lot of phones are being tapped for clues.
Sources say that this time they want to make some arrests to boost their public image and for obvious reasons, fugitive gangster Ravi Pujari tops the list.
Let’s hope this time the efforts of Mumbai Police pays off.
All the best.
So, do you want to hear how a threat call from the underworld sounds like? Then, watch this video!
Short-link -> http://bit.ly/1aynMez