The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Vanishing act in Bollywood

Mumbai, Nov. 12: With Abu Salem finally surfacing, it is time for some in Bollywood to go underground.

A financier-distributor, who apparently acted as the pointman for the gangster till recently, has fled to London.

The financier, who has a number of films to his credit, also had a stake in Jodi No. 1, in which Salem’s girlfriend Monica Bedi had wangled a role on the don’s directive.

“It is an open secret that he was Salem’s spokesperson. He would often make extortion calls to producers on Salem’s behalf,” said an industry source.

The financier, a small-time businessman who turned an overseas distributor overnight, is also alleged to have helped Monica acquire two flats in suburban Jogeshwari Oshiwada. The flats were sealed by MHADA (the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority) in 2001.

Along with two of his friends ' a trade analyst who publishes a magazine and a well-known producer of yesteryears who is active in a producers’ association ' the financier formed a triumvirate that was close to Salem.

The rest of Bollywood has gagged itself with even those who were targeted by Salem maintaining silence.

Filmmaker Subhas Ghai was one of the 40 per cent of the film industry personalities who allegedly received extortion calls from Salem. During the making of his film Pardes in 1997, he is said to have received an extortion call from Salem and complained to the police chief. However, when contacted, he refused to comment on Salem’s arrest. Another target, filmmaker J.P. Dutta, also refused to react to the arrest.

Manmohan Shetty, who founded Adlabs and pioneered corporatisation in Bollywood and was spoken to by Salem, said he could not react to the arrest till Monday. “I am in New York and can only make a statement on Monday,” he said.

Producer-director Rakesh Roshan, at whom Salem’s men had fired six bullets when he refused to part with the overseas rights of the Hrithik Roshan launchpad Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai, did not get back as he had promised to.

The industry was less reserved about Monica. One of her co-actors, screen villain Shakti Kapoor, said he found her a “sweet girl”.

“It was very shocking to see what she is going through,” he said. But Kapoor said he had no inkling that she was a friend of Salem.

Filmmaker Ashok Pandit said that though several people in the industry were at the receiving end of Salem’s calls, only a small section was involved in his activities. “The rest of the film world has nothing to do with him,” he added.

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