One of India’s most-wanted terror kingpins, Dawood Ibrahim, masterminded the 1993 serial bomb blasts in Mumbai, which claimed nearly 250 lives and left hundreds injured. Having anticipated widespread communal clashes, the members of the Muslim community were armed with assault rifles, hand grenades, and pistols brought from Pakistan. Once the arms were brought to Mumbai, they were delivered at the office of Magnum Video, owned by Hanif Kadawala and Sameer Hingora. But the partners could not decide on a place to keep the weapons. Thus, they suggested that Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt’s house could be used as a safe-spot for keeping the weapons. Although Dutt had agreed, he was apprehensive about keeping grenades in his house and contacted Anees Ibrahim, Dawood’s brother, to take them away. The grenades were duly taken off his hands.
Following a series of investigations, the police nabbed Hingora and Kadawala who named Dutt. The actor was abroad for a shoot and the cops decided to lie low until he returned. However, a newspaper report which highlighted the developments in the case reached Dutt and he panicked and asked his friend, Yusuf Nullwala to destroy the weapons. Unable to destroy all the weapons, Nullwala returned a 9mm pistol to Dutt. The actor was taken into custody by the police at the airport, once he returned to India. After searching his house, they recovered the pistol and an assault rifle.
Later, Dutt claimed in court that he had the weapon for protecting his family and himself since his father, veteran actor Sunil Dutt, had received threats from various extremist organisations after the communal riots following the demolition of Babri Masjid. His story would have been believable had the police not recorded his conversations with Anees Ibrahim and produced them as evidence in court.Yet, the recently released big-budgeted Bollywood biopic, ‘Sanju,’ conveniently chose to ignore the events that led to Sanjay Dutt’s arrest and focussed on his claims that he kept the guns for self-protection. The movie, otherwise too, has steered clear of various controversial aspects of Dutt’s life such that it evokes a sense of sympathy from the audience for Bollywood’s innocent ‘Baba.’
Bollywood’s love for producing films on gangsters and those related to the underworld is no secret. Popular movies in this genre include “Shootout at Lokhandwala”, “Once Upon a Time in Mumbai”, “Gangs of Wasseypur”and “Haseena Parkar” among many others. Such movies have generally been received well by the Indian audience as a result of which have been money spinners.While few movies have remained objective in their narrative and have shown the events as they happened, most have done the same with a certain sense of subjectivity. They have gone to the extent of portraying the one connected to the underworld in a sympathetic light and in some cases have even justified their acts. Essentially, such films water down their heinous crimes of the villains to seemingly simple human mistakes.
“Shootout at Lokhandwala” is centred around Maya Dolas, a once-feared gangster and close aide to Dawood Ibrahim and his gang. The film details the rise of Dolas, his reign as one of Mumbai’s most feared gangsters, and his ultimate death at the hands of the Anti-Terrorist Squad of Maharashtra Police. It is a highly dramatized version of events that led to the rise and fall of Dolas and his gang.The characters of Dolas and his friends are placed on a pedestal. Amidst the murders and heinous acts they commit, they are shown singing, dancing and drinking. On one hand, the film has shown that adopting the life of a gangster and a criminal is rewarding and on the other hand, it has indicated that following the footsteps of the police and adopting their lives is equivalent to punishing oneself. In one of the last sequences of the film, Dolas and his gang members realise that their death is imminent and are swept by a sudden sense of remorse and realisation. The background score that plays out during this sequence is one which elicits sorrow and sympathy. Though the film ends with the death of the gangsters, it has largely painted these characters as heroes.
“Once Upon a Time in Mumbai” tells the story of two gangsters Sultan Mirza and Shoaib Khan whose lives are loosely based on Haji Mastan, a gangster and smuggler who used to operate in Mumbai, and Dawood Ibrahim, respectively. The movie details the rags to riches rise of Mirza and his death at the hands of Shoaib Khan who rises as a prominent gangster from the by-lanes of Mumbai. In the film, Mirza is portrayed as a champion of the masses. He believed that the rich had more wealth than they needed and they could do by distributing it among the poor. However, since the rich did little for the cause of the poor, he took the matter in his own hands. His story has been portrayed as the typical Robin Hood who steals from the rich and distributes it among the poor. His death, too, is shown like that of a tragic hero.Yet, the movie fails to highlight the fact that Mirza was a smuggler and there was little in his dealings which was legal. The audience is fooled into thinking that Mirza’s way is the only way and the right way for the poor to lead respected lives in a corrupt system.Though the film is largely centered around Mirza, it has painted Khan as a heroic figure too. The film has shown that Khan believed in his own set of principles even if it meant killing his ‘mentor.’
The average moviegoer is gullible and tends to believe what Bollywood says, especially if it is dramatized. By making gangster and crime movies and by not treating them objectively, the Indian film industry is feeding false information and bringing forth the undesirable ambitions among the Indian audience. Bollywood needs to take a hard look at itself and evaluate its relationship with movies about underworld dons.
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