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Tum throws up Salem link

Mumbai, March 4: The “dreaded call” from the underworld still rings in Bollywood.

Adil Mohammad Farooq, the “managing director” of Tum — which has Jackie Shroff, Saif Ali Khan, Aftab Shivdasani and Preeti Jhangiani on the cast — has revealed that “at least” the choreographer and the fight director were forced to work on the film at underworld don Abu Salem’s behest.

Mumbai police arrested Farooq on Friday for alleged links with Salem, now in prison in Lisbon. The police say Farooq passed on threat calls from Salem to the lead actors in the movie. However, both Shroff and Saif have denied the charge. Shivdasani and Jhangiani were unavailable for comment.

Tum, which has E. Niwas of Dum and Shool fame as director, had even managed to get Bipasha Basu’s name in the film credits though she was never part of the cast. The police feel that Bipasha’s name had been used to promote the film overseas. Investigators also believe the actress would later have been threatened to work in the film had Salem not been held in Portugal.

Though the actors have denied being threatened, joint commissioner (crime) Sridhar Vagal said Shroff, Saif and Shivdasani were threatened before they agreed to be part of the star cast.

Top police sources said Farooq, managing director of FKF Film Productions, has confessed that Salem decided who was going to act in the film and who would be the musicians, the choreographer and the fight director. He allegedly told the police that “many” were forced to work on the film.

The film, scheduled to be shot in Dubai and other foreign locales from February 18, had its mahurat in November 2002. However, shooting could not take off after the lead actors were told by the police that Farooq and the production company, FKF Film, were under surveillance.

The police now suspect that Salem was involved in “every stage of the film”, from financing to casting and distribution overseas. Farooq, who has been arrested for fraud and issuing death threats, had in possession 18 forged passports.

Mumbai police have for long been trying to bust the underworld-Bollywood nexus. Film financier and diamond merchant Bharat Shah is being tried by a special court for links with the underworld and for working on behalf of gangster Chhota Shakeel to extort money from film stars.

Though more than a dozen Bollywood personalities, including Shah Rukh Khan and Rakesh Roshan, have been interrogated to find out if they have been threatened by the underworld, only actress Preity Zinta has till now acknowledged it.

Zinta is the heroine of Chori Chori, Chupke Chupke, a film alleged to have been funded by Shakeel with producer Nazim Rizvi as the frontman.

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