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'Bollywood can sleep now'

By Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Mumbai
Last updated on: November 11, 2005 18:41 IST
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Abu Salem.

The very mention of that name used to give doyens of Mumbai's show business sleepless nights.

Producer-director Rajiv Rai left India and settled in London after Salem's men shot at him on July 31, 1997 when he refused to pay the gangster extortion money.

Rakesh Roshan was not spared either. He nearly died when Salem's men shot him a few days after his blockbuster Kaho... Na Pyaar Hain was released on January 21, 2000.

"I was disturbed for a month," Rakesh Roshan then told in an interview, "But I thought I have to move on. It was a tragedy that could have happened to anybody. Me and my family have overcome that tragedy."

Manisha Koirala's secretary Ajit Dewan was killed, allegedly at Salem's bidding.

The story goes that Salem's first tryst with the Hindi film industry was when he was asked by Anees Ibrahim, fugitive gangster Dawood Ibrahim's brother, to deliver an AK-56 gun to Sanjay Dutt's home in January 1993.

Shortly before the March 12, 1993 serial blasts in Mumbai -- he is a prime accused in the case -- Salem left for Dubai. He swiftly climbed the hierarchy of the notorious D Company because of his networking skills.

A few weeks after the abortive attack on Rajiv Rai, Salem shot into national infamy. On August 12, 1997 his men murdered music baron Gulshan Kumar in broad daylight. The T-Series company owner was worshipping at a temple in Andheri, a northwest Mumbai suburb, when he was slain.

Dawood Ibrahim is said to have been livid with Gulshan Kumar's murder. He was unaware of the operation and felt Salem was getting too big for his boots. Salem moved out of Dubai, fearing Dawood's wrath, and formed a gang that terrorised the Mumbai film industry.

People who did not pay up confronted Salem's killers.

His modus operandi was simple: He hired amateurs from Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh, where he hailed from, to kill people. Remember the scene in Ram Gopal Varma's Satya when the police travel to Azamgarh to hunt for killers?

Meeting Abu Salem's brother in Azamgarh

"Almost half the film industry was under his threat," Mahesh Bhatt told

Presumably at Salem's behest, girlfriend Monica Bedi signed films like Jodi No 1 and Pyaar Ishq Aur Mohabbat.

Gangster and moll were finally arrested by Interpol in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2002 and, after a long court battle, extradited to Mumbai on Thursday.

"Our industry can sleep at ease now after his arrest," said Bhatt. "Almost half the industry people I know had received death threats from Abu Salem. Now is the time for him to face the law."

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Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Mumbai