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Supari cuffs on starlet

Mumbai, Sept. 10: Model-turned-aspiring actor Preeti Jain was today arrested on charges of conspiring to kill the national award-winning director of Page 3, Madhur Bhandarkar.

The 25-year-old had stirred up a hornet’s nest in July 2004 by alleging he sexually exploited her between 1999 and 2003 on the pretext of giving her a lead role in his films and dumped her. She claimed he even offered to marry her.

Police said Preeti allegedly paid an aide of former underworld don Arun Gawli supari of Rs 50,000 to wipe out Bhandarkar. Supari is cash given in advance for a contract killing.

Both Preeti and Gawli aide Naresh Pardeshi were arrested after day-long questioning. Gawli had tipped off the police that Preeti came to him looking for the man whom she had paid but was now dodging her.

“Preeti was charged under Section 120 B (hatching a conspiracy) and 115 (abetment). We will probe the further linkages,” Subodh Jaiswal, ACP, South Region, said.

Gawli, whose September 3 letter got the police cracking, distanced himself from the case. “I am a respectable MLA. Why should I do these things' It was I who informed the police after Preeti met me.”

The Chinchpokli MLA said his personal assistant told him Preeti was looking for an aide who was not taking her calls. “I advised her to contact the police. After that I do not know what the police have done.”

Bhandarkar, who was catapulted into big league with success of Chandni Bar, was stunned.

“I had stepped out of the house when I got a flurry of calls from the media. I had no idea of this conspiracy.”

He said he had filed a police complaint in May after getting threatening calls asking him “to settle the matter”. The reference was to a tussle with Preeti who wanted his anticipatory bail cancelled.

“The police traced the calls to a local public call office,” the director, busy planning his next film Corporate, said.

Page 3 actors Konkona Sen Sharma and Tara Sharma stood by him after the news broke. Bhandarkar married his long-time girlfriend Renu Namboodri in 2003.

Producer-director Mahesh Bhatt questioned Preeti’s sanity. Filmmaker Ashok Pandit said: “It is shocking that someone can go to this extent.”

Preeti, who claims to be an English Honours graduate from Cambridge and a software engineer, landed in Mumbai in 1999. Veteran film journalist Jyoti Venkatesh introduced her to Bhandarkar.

Preeti and Pardeshi will be produced before a holiday court magistrate on Sunday.

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