My first column in the series : Once Upon a Time with Shobhaa De - Doobara.
Guess who said this: “…..only two kinds of stories fascinate the audiences – one is crime and the other is love.” Nope. It wasn’t a Hollywood / Bollywood blockbuster badshah. And it wasn’t Sanjay Dutt, either. It was Mumbai’s ATS chief and much-admired top cop, Rakesh Maria. He should know. After all, he has expertly dealt with both issues – love and crime - during his long and illustrious career. But movie magic only happens when both themes are seamlessly combined into a powerful narrative ( think ‘The Godfather’, ‘Bonnie and Clyde’. ‘The Great Gatsby’… oh, so many more). In India, we can’t seem to get enough of our gangsters and their gangstergiri . Throw in a gorgeous moll and what do you get? Well then, baby – you’ve scored a bull’s eye. We have an impressive list of real life bad guys to choose from. But amazingly enough, we remain fixated on just one . Yup. Everyone knows which one. And nobody utters his name.The D-Man has spawned an entire entertainment industry all by himself, and there’s no chance of that fascination (the Big Daddy phenomenon) , fading out anytime soon.. In Mumbai, the lore grows each time a new movie involving the monster is announced. But wait a minute – what is it about him that exerts such a strong hold over us? What is it about sinister men and sex appeal? And why do women find them irresistible? Bad guys get the best looking chicks… and the chicks get….????
I missed up my chance to meet the ‘baddest’ of these bad guys - the dreaded D-Man himself - during a visit to Karachi last year. There we were, enjoying a wonderful dinner at a super chic restaurant, when one of the men at the table lowered his voice and asked me conspiratorially, “ Would you like to meet him?” He didn’t have to specify. And I didn’t need to pretend. “Yesssss!” I said, nearly choking over my sherbet, adding breathlessly, “Just say when…” The guy reached for his smart phone and made a call. His voice was lowered still further. The rest of the mehmaan started to fidget and exchange nervous glances. This was getting seriously exciting. I glanced at my watch. It was close to 11 p.m. Furtive negotiations followed. “ Can you meet him in two hours…. his home is less than a 100 metres from where we are just now.” Wow! I had goose bumps! We were this close to a major scoop. I immediately and recklessly agreed.An instant later,one of the ladies at the table decided to speak up, “ Bakwas bandh karo…” she snapped at the man. That was his wife. And clearly she had more brains than this chap. I. of course, had none left at this point. I was busy preparing a questionnaire inside my head.
So, what happened next? Let me just say, the story had a happy ending, from the perspective of my local hosts. But I kept thinking about all the questions I could have asked one of the most wanted and dangerous men in the world. Sigh ! So near…. and yet so far. That’s life.
On the short flight back to Mumbai, I thought about ‘those’ days - that distant decade. What a terrifying time it was – the Unforgiving Eighties, when anything could ( and often, did) happen to innocents in Mumbai. And at the centre of this vortex of violence was one man – loathed and loved, revered and reviled. The D-Man himself….