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Mafia guns for Bollywood again

Mafia guns for Bollywood again

Author: Times News Network
Publication: The Times of India
Date: December 5, 2004

Introduction: Breakaway Abu Salem Gang Threatens Producers for Overseas Film Rights

A splinter group of the Abu Salem gang is now targetting Bollywood producers for the overseas rights to their films. The latest victims of this group are said to be film-makers Yash Chopra and Ram Gopal Varma who released Veer Zaara and Naach respectively this Diwali. While Veer Zara, starring Shah Rukh Khan, has been a hit in almost all territories in India, Naach, featuring Antara Mali, has been a moderate success.

However, both are in big demand in overseas markets. While Chopra and Varma could not be contacted, intelligence sources confirmed that they had received threat calls from the breakaway Abu Salem faction which is based in Dubai. The leader of this group is referred to as 'major'. A senior officer said police protection had been given to Chopra and Varma as a precautionary measure. "This is a temporary measure and the security cover will be withdrawn after a few months," he added. Sources confirmed that the protection was given after threats were issued to these high-profile producers.

Police sources said Bollywood was being targetted by mafiadom after a gap of several months. Abu Salem, who was earlier with the Dawood Ibrahim gang, was notorious for forcing producers to deliver the overseas distribution rights of their movies, which fetched him millions of dollars.

Salem is now out of action since he has been in a jail in Lisbon for several months in connection with a series of criminal charges, including use of a fake passport. Some of the former members of his gang have apparently formed a new group which has turned its attention to film world.

Mainstream producers have been reluctant to deal with anybody from the underworld. But in the past, some of them have been forced to sell the overseas rights of their movies to the Salem gang for a song. After the arrest of leading producer and financier Bharat Shah by the Mumbai police four years ago, these producers are refusing to have anything to do with the bhais. Shah has been acquitted. Nevertheless, established Bollywood producers have preferred to seek police protection rather than mess with the gangs.

Following the police crackdown, the underworld has also stopped financing Hindi films. Dawood Ibrahim, Chhota Rajan and other gang leaders not only financed films at one time, but also decided on the star cast. But now, fears of the men in khaki have forced many producers to take money from Shikarpuri Sindhis who have traditionally financed Hindi movies. Chhota Rajan's brother Deepak Nikhalje had produced the superhit film Vaastav apparently with the help of his 'bhai'.

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