Situated in the same time and space, the ‘City of Dreams’ often has had some unsavoury brushes with the ‘City of Crime’ as gangsters tried to muscle into Bollywood. Some instances made national headlines, some did not.
The role of the infamous D-Company is well-known, but the first target of gangland action was the maker of a Bollywood classic in the early 1980s and the case required the street-smarts of a canny cop to be untangled.
For light on this sordid episode, dating back to September 1982, when one of the producers of the landmark film ‘Shakti’, where Amitabh Bachchan faced off against Dilip Kumar, was waylaid, abducted, and tortured until he agreed to pay Rs 20 lakh as ransom (a substantial amount in those days), we must turn to the compelling memoirs of the retired Mumbai Police officer, Isaque Ismail Bagwan.
Bagwan, who retired as an ACP after more than three decades of active service, and had first-hand experience of some of the lurid crimes of the times — gang wars on the streets, 1993 blasts, the 2008 terror outrage, is credited with Mumbai Police’s first encounter killing as he describes it in his book, “Me Against the Mumbai Underworld” (2018).
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In this book, he also tells us how he ensured the kidnappers of producer Mubashir Alam, who formed a partnership with fellow filmmaker Mohammad Riaz, were identified and brought to justice as a result of Alam’s observations and Bagwan’s own quick thinking and situational awareness.
As Bagwan recounts, he was then in the Crime Branch, under the legendary (then) Inspector Madhukar Zende, in the Mumbai Police headquarters, when one day they were informed that actor Dilip Kumar had come to meet city police chief Julio Ribeiro. They concluded that it must be in connection with an arms licence or some such thing. but they became curious when Zende was summoned to the Commissioner’s office. And he took Bagwan along.
There, they found that the actor was accompanied by two others — later identified as the producer duo of Mushir-Riaz, and the Commissioner, introducing Zende and Bagwan as his “super cops”, asked his visitors to share their problem.
Mushir then said how he had been waylaid by two or three abductors near Haji Ali a couple of days back, blindfolded and taken forcibly to their hideout where the Rs 20 lakh demand was made, and he was only freed after he gave them part of it the same day and promised the rest as soon as possible. He was, however, unable to identify the people or the area he was taken to.
Here, Bagwan says he had a few questions but was unsure whether he should speak in front of his superior officers. Zende, who knew his subordinate too well and sensed his quandary, gave him the cue.
And Bagwan, in a feat of deduction worthy of Sherlock Holmes, with a series of questions on how much time it took from his abduction to reach his space of confinement, the area’s ambient smells, sounds, and other details of the building in question, such as the number of stairs and other features, zeroed on the place.
A raid was carried out and the building identified. Data from informers and the local police led to the ascertainment of which gang used it and was behind this crime.
It was found that it was the Pathan gang of the mafioso Karim Pathan’s kin Amirzada and Alamzeb. Lying low and facing a funds crunch after the killing of Dawood Ibrahim’s elder brother Sabir, they had planned the crime to recoup their fortunes.
A hunt was launched for them and they were suspected to be hiding under the protection of Gujarat gangster Abdul Latif — later portrayed by Shah Rukh Khan in “Raees”.
Some patient and painstaking work led to the arrest of Amirazad from Ahmedabad and with his interrogation, the story of why the film producer was targeted came out.
As Bagwan relates, it came to be known that a young man, who worked as a production assistant with an associate of Mushir, had been introduced to Amirzada and was overawed by the cordiality with which the gangster greeted him and invited him to various events, including family functions.
The young man was soon to learn that this conviviality came with a price — and though he tried to distance himself from Amirzada after coming to know about the dangerous activities of the brothers, he was stuck.
One day, the gangsters came to his house and asked him to inform them of anyone in the industry who had a dispute that could be not resolved through the usual licit means, or had stashed away black money. He was reluctant to become an informer, but had no choice. He gave him the name of Mushir’s associate — whose standing the gang members checked out on their own — before putting their plan into action.
Amirzada and Alamzeb were soon eliminated by their Dawood gang rivals before they could be brought to book for this crime, let alone the myriad others they were accused of.
And while this episode ended rather happily for the victim, due to a police official’s local knowledge and acumen, future incidents would not be so easily resolved.
–By Vikas Datta