Manohar Arjun Surve, popularly known as Manya Surve, was Mumbai’s first underworld gangster to be shot dead in a police encounter. He was also the muse behind Amitabh Bachchan’s Vijay Dinanth Chauhan in Agneepath (1990). Twenty-nine years after his death, Karan Johar’s Agneepath and Sanjay Gupta’s Shootout At Wadala, are reportedly reliving his story.
While Hrithik Roshan insists that his Vijay has borrowed little from Manya, Sanjay admits that John Abraham in the Shootout sequel will be modelled on him. “I’ve been meeting people who knew Manya personally, including cops and Manya’s personal trainer,” says Sanjay. “He was tall (6 feet 2 inches) and well-built, and John fits him. After Zinda (2006), we’ve wanted to do another movie. This will be a raw and earthy John. I’m going to drag him out of his comfort zone.”
Will he speak in a different voice too? “No, he won’t. Doing something dramatically different upsets fans. Even Mr Bachchan had to re-dub his lines in his familiar baritone because the husky whisper didn’t go down well with the audience when Agneepath first released,” says Sanjay.
Manya was sentenced to life for the murder of a man named Dandekar, along with his stepbrother, Bhargav and an associate, Manya Podhkar. While incarcerated at Pune’s Yerwada jail, he was at loggerheads with another gangster, Suhas Potya Bhatkar, and was later shifted to Ratnagiri jail. After losing 20 kgs in a hunger strike, he was moved to the local hospital from where he escaped on November 14, 1979, after nine years in prison. He returned to Mumbai, formed a gang, and for two years, carried off several successful heists and robberies, and was involved in narcotics trafficking. Under pressure, the cops launched Operation Manya Surve and he was finally gunned down on November 19, 1982, in an encounter that involved 18 Crime Branch officials.
“I’m directing a film after six years and it’s a legacy for my son. I want Sivaansh to be proud of his dad when he sees Shootout At Wadala,” says Sanjay.
There’d been talk of a fall-out between Ekta and him post Shootout At Lokhandwala (2007). But Sanjay laughs off the rumours: “The mischief makers had a field day. The stories weren’t worth clarifying. Yes, it’s been seven years since we collaborated on Shootout, but there was no script till I stumbled upon Manya’s story.”
On January 11, 1982, the police received a tip-off that Manya Surve would be picking up his girlfriend, a widow with two children, at a beauty parlour near Ambedkar College in Wadala. He stepped out of a cab, and on noticing the squad, reached for his revolver but was shot at before he could react. He succumbed to his injuries in an ambulance on the way to a hospital.
Sanjay Gupta is in talks with Vidya Balan to play Manya’s ladylove opposite John Abraham. “Not much is known about this mystery woman, who in the process of rehabilitating Manya, facilitated his death. Once he was gunned down, no one, not even the cops, heard about her,” informs Gupta.
He insists that he’s not expecting Vidya to sign the film because Ekta Kapoor, with whom she’s been filming The Dirty Picture, is the co-producer: “I’m hoping to convince her with the character that was written with her in mind.”