A leaked US cable states that Bollywood has welcomed funding from gangsters and politicians, known in India as ‘black money’, reported timesofindia.com on Wednesday. While there is no direct reference of Dawood Ibrahim, who allegedly financed a number of movies, Bollywood still has been associated with the notorious Mumbai underworld on several occasions.
Timesofindia.com reported that according to Jehil Thakkar, head of media and entertainment for KPMG – a professional firm providing Audit and tax advisory – this association stemmed from the financing needs of the industry. Until 2000, the film industry was ineligible for bank credit, private equity, and other legitimate commercial financing. “As a result, films were financed by ad hoc collections of investors, many of whom were from the construction and trade industries, who charged interest rates as high as 60 to 100 per cent.”
The cable issued by the US Consulate in Mumbai and released by WikiLeaks says that, “The film industry also welcomed funds from gangsters and politicians, because they were looking for ways to launder their ill-gotten gains (or ‘black money’).”
An article in Time Magazine states that underworld don Abu Salem called Indian reporters and boasted that he financed Shahrukh Khan starrer Devdas – which was said to be the most expensive film of its time.
According to Time.com, Chota Shakeel, another underworld big boss, is telephone buddies with many actors, directors and producers. Shakeel – whom the local police claim they have on 71 tapes of bugged calls – has Sanjay Dutt on his speed dial, the site claims Dutt has had a past littered with drugs, a love of guns and implication in a series of Bombay blasts in 1993.
The film industry, however, had to pay for this material rapport several times. Actors Hrithik Roshan, Govinda, Amrish Puri and director Karan Johar were assigned armed police protection after receiving death threats from the underworld. Superstar Aamir Khan and director Ashutosh Gowariker got threatening calls from mobs because they rejected gangland overtures after the huge success of their Oscar-nominated Lagaan. Shahrukh Khan also lodged a complaint with city police and the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) after getting calls by gangster Bunty Pandey, who was demanding a sum of Rs2 billion, states Time.com
“After the government added the film industry to the list of legitimate industries, the corporatisation of Bollywood – and the wider entertainment industry – began,” the cable says.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 8th, 2011.