Friends, I shall be writing these blogs as a part of a promotional campaign for a movie titled, "Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai." These are the first two....
Mumbai is reeling once more from what is being described as ‘Another era of Gangwars,” after the brutal murder of Farid Tanasha earlier this month.Seven men arrived at the gangster’s house where he was relaxing after dinner, getting a foot massage from his second wife Reshma, as their toddler daughter played close by. Eight rounds were fired out of which five hit the gangster, killing him instantly. The police declared it was a 7.65mm bullet that killed the person believed to be Chhota Rajan’s main hitman.
The report generated a distinct sense of déjà vu for those of us who have lived through the fierce gangwars of the ‘70’s when Bombay was still Bombay, and the underworld ruled. From matka dens to gold, silver and currency smuggling on a scale that might have embarrassed Al Capone, Bombay was run by ruthless mafia bosses, who unlike the gangsters from the 80’s and 90’s, didn’t bother to remain in the shadows. Or play coy with the press and public. They were very visible public figures who ran their various ‘dhandas’ brazenly and openly. But most interestingly, they were an accepted part of Bollywood society – coveted trophy ‘mehmaans’ who’d show up at premieres and mahurats and mingle freely with all the top stars, producers and directors, even posing nonchalantly for pictures which were subsequently published by popular magazines and trade papers of the time.Nobody thought this open show of bonhomie as either odd or even indiscreet. Perhaps the filmwallahs dared not snub or shun those shadey men in shining white polyester, who called the shots – not just in Bollywood, but Bombay. Violence had become a way of life…. and death, a familiar companion.
Here’s a teaser trailer from me to you – one of those much feared men who controlled this teeming, volatile, corrupt and venal metropolis was the dreaded Don called Haji Mastaan.
And I’d met him!
More in my next post.
The Sensational ‘Seventies sizzled and seethed.
There was blood on the streets…. but nobody willing to mop it up.
Men in White….
What is it about men in white that startles the unwary? Is there a rule somewhere that says ‘White Not Allowed’ if you’re a guy? Bollywood Baddies have always had a penchant for the colour one generally associates with vestal virgins. Pran frequently wore white for his villainous roles, and I’m pretty sure Amrish Puri growled, “ Mogambo khush hua ,” clad in pristine white breeches. It was , of course, Jumping Jack Jeetendra who patented the all-white (down to the pointy, shiney shoes) look in Bollywood… and he wasn’t even a baddie ( though Hema Malini’s mother wasn’t entirely convinced about that when she broke up their sizzling romance). Sanjeev Kumar liked his whites. So did Dilip Kumar. Even that loveable eccentric Raaj Kumar was often spotted in white ( so what if it clashed with his flaming orange wig?). Raj Kapoor liked his ladies in white, and wore a lot of white himself. As did his devastatingly handsome younger brother Shashi ( strictly kurta-pajamas, please). That was then. Let’s cut to now - soon we are going to see Ajay Devgun sporting strictly white for his role as ‘Sultan’ in a forthcoming film. And (wink-wink) we all know where that wardrobe inspiration is coming from. The notorious ‘Seventies don of dons, Haji Mastan, invariably wore white. And if advance reports about the film are to be believed, Ajay’s character is based on Hajibhai’s ( never mind what publicists and Haji Mastan’s family have to say about this ‘resemblance’!).
Frankly, I do think Ajay is the only Bollywood actor who can pull off this role – he even looks the part. If anything, Ajay appears far more menacing than the original. How do I know? Well, I had the dubious pleasure of meeting Haji Mastan a couple of times under rather strange circumstances and in very unlikely company. It was during Sanjay Gandhi’s very short reign ( post the ignominious Emergency – surely the most disgraceful period of our history?) as India’s absolute supremo. Sanjay Gandhi’s henchwoman at the time was a feisty, attractive and ambitious person called Rukhsana Sultan ( mother of Amrita ‘Dingy’ Singh, Saif’s ex ). I was researching a cover story on Rukhsana, during the course of which she asked me to come over to her plush suite in the Taj Mahal Hotel (Mumbai), to meet some of her business associates. Ha!! Little did I know then that one of those associates would be the dreaded don – Hajibhai himself!
More about that meeting in my next post.
After all…. the fact that I am still alive to tell the tale is in itself a major feat!