Bollywood and the Mumbai underworld have stuck alongside one another in a strange romance that has spanned generations. The symbiotic nature of the relationship between the two has been fundamental in the growth of both parties, no matter how strongly Bollywood chose to keep it a secret.
The industry is groomed by the idea of feeding the public with standard hogwash that they would easily consume, unflinchingly. And, it always helped when half of the crime bosses came from a background of impoverishment.
There have been instances in the noughties when Bollywood’s relationship with organized crime came to the limelight, however, it has always been kept under wraps. It is no mere coincidence that the underworld was an easy ally of the film industry.
They thrived in this alliance, with Bollywood looking for financial sponsorship from the underworld, while the underworld bosses needed an alternative to whitewashing their illicit finances. Thus emerged, a long-standing, albeit toxic relationship that would remind you of that one ex.
In hindsight, it would be fair to say that Bollywood’s flirtatious relationship with the Indian underworld has been carried over to the present day and age. The romance of the two worlds, one of glitz and glamour while the other of grit and gore, have always found a way to slither its way onto the silver screen in awe-inducing sultriness.
D-Company And Its Romance With Bollywood
Dawood Ibrahim is often dubbed as the strongest of forces when it comes to the Mumbai underworld. His influence can be seen almost everywhere, and he has accounted for a myriad of appearances and, quite obviously, the most successful of mob bosses in the film industry.
Apart from having references made to his depictions on the silver screen, the perma-goggled man sporting the defining ‘stache had embroiled himself with numerous actresses back in the golden age of Bollywood.
Mandakini, the famed star from the movie ‘Ram Teri Ganga Maili’, was famously known to have taken the fancy of the mob boss, which had erupted into allegations of her bagging movies on the influence of Ibrahim.
The influence of Dawood’s D Company was so entrenched in the Bollywood industry that it had become common news that numerous producers and directors had looked towards them for financial assistance.
However, after 2000 when the government amended the law that forbade banks from financing movies, the underworld could not be fazed to leave the industry for the better.
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On the contrary, the underworld, especially the D-Company, seeped its hands deeper into the industry’s pockets as the occasional financing of cinema turned into violent extortion and racketeering.
The studios turned into cesspits for everything that was illicit, and Bollywood had found itself at the pointy end of the barrel. The symbiote had consumed the industry whole.
An instance of not giving in to the demands of the D-Company was perceived on an ill-fated morning of 1997, as Gulshan Kumar, the face of T-Series faced the other end of the barrel.
It was alleged that mob boss Dawood Ibrahim and Abu Salem had a major role to play in the grisly death of the T-Series bossman.
The Gangster Life And Hindi Cinema
Even after the entire conundrum caused by the D-Company in the world of cinema in Mumbai, they were still portrayed under the light of veneration and empathy by Bollywood.
Mahesh Manjrekar paved the way with “Vaastav”, starring Sanjay Dutt, as he depicted a loose rendition of Chhota Rajan. “Vaastav” painted Sanjay Dutt’s character as a victim of his own surroundings, rather than holding him responsible for much of what his character goes through.
Rather than making us apathetic to the character’s arc, the audience is made to believe that this rendition of Chhota Rajan is redeemable.
It is no surprise that Chopra used a similar tactic in narrating the story of Sanjay Dutt, as well. Coincidence? I would rather have you answer that.
Furthermore, the strange romance of Bollywood with the idea of humanizing the cold-blooded murderers who had taken the guise of being the ‘protectors’ of “Aamchi Mumbai,” is a love letter of the industry to the underworld.
In retrospect, apart from a few movies concerning the underworld, only a few have delved into the moral implications that denote the life of an underworld gangster.
Most of the said movies fell under the dilemma of treating its characters with a sense of awe like “Peaky Blinders”, rather than holding them accountable for their own downfall like a straw in a bushel like “The Irishman”.
The sense of awe that culminated around the celebrity mob boss Haji Mastan in “Once Upon A Time In Mumbai” is reason enough to determine the stance taken by the filmmakers. And the same may be said for the portrayal of Manya Surve in “Shootout At Wadala”, and the deplorable depiction of the police force in “Shootout At Lokhandwala”.
These were but a few instances when Bollywood stuck to portraying larger-than-life stories of human beings who had crossed over into the darker sphere of Mumbai’s underbelly.
It is no mere statement to say that the public loves the idea of a human being gathering their nerves and venturing beyond the simple call of duty.
Passing over and into the underbelly and rising to the top of the food chain. These human beings are depicted as underdogs, much like the target audience, and within them they see hope. Hope, unlike any other.
However, in this day and age with a considerable decrease in the underworld’s influence in this era, the time has come to bid the underworld adieu. Bollywood, if you are listening, do take notes.
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