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Price for safety

Constables are passé… enter commandos who now guard our B-town stars and take home big bucks.

entertainment Updated: Feb 09, 2010 00:59 IST
Collin Rodrigues

AamirSecurity remains a matter of concern for most of us. For a layman, it’s the threat of bombs or riots; while for a star, it’s those very common people who pose as threats.

Stars have been on the receiving end numerous times. Bipasha Basu has been molested twice — once at a club, in 2003, and again during Durga Puja, in 2009. A Pakistani man once sneaked into Hema Malini’s house. A fan tried to molest Minakshi Sheshadri once.

Gone are the days when your average Bollywood star would be guarded by constables from the local police station, and that too only at public events. That is all past.

Cut to the present and enter private security agencies, who have completely taken over. So, it’s not just the politicians and mafia who need protection 24x7. Needless to say that they do have the money to splurge just to keep their ‘intrusive fans’ at bay. Security agencies, nowadays, provide cover to film shootings, star residences as well as personal guards, where a hefty, well-built, safari-clad man follows the actor, wherever he goes.

A high-risk area for a star is an event. Here, usually it’s the producer who pays for the hired bodyguards. TV actor Ronit Roy is the biggest player in providing security to A-listers. He himself was once employed as a vice president at G7 Securitas. He started ACE about a decade ago. Some of the well-known faces who are secured by his agency include — Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn, Imran Khan, Saif Ali Khan, John Abraham, Abhishek Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Akshay Khanna, Shahid Kapur, Sunny and Bobby Deol, Tusshar Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai, Rani Mukherji, Preity Zinta, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor, Bipasha Basu, Sushmita Sen, Madhuri Dixit, Celina Jaitly, Vidya Balan, Riya Sen and Hema Malini. Phew!

Some of the sportspersons who Ronit provided services for, are Sir Clive Lloyd, Alan Border, Kapil Dev, Imran Khan, Arjuna Ranatunga, Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh. Irfan Pathan, Sania Mirza, Vijender Singh and even Lewis Lamilton.

The security business picked up after the ’93/94 Mumbai riots. Vikaash Verma who founded G7 Securitas in 1994, is the other major player in the field. As far as Bollywood celebs are concerned, he specialises in film shoots and events. He explains, “A star’s security depends on the type of place he visits. The cover could include armed or electronic security. It costs around Rs 3 to 4 lakh a month. It can also go as high as Rs 7 lakh for a Naxalite hit or a riot-torn area.”

Verma closely liaisons every security detail with the local police. He further adds, “The charges for a low risk zone like Mumbai ranges from Rs 50,000 to 60,000. Armed security costs above a lakh.” According to our source, events like mall openings fall under this category. “A recent event where Salman Khan visited Amara at Kemp’s Corner was charged Rs 50,000,” he reveals.

Top billing
When a star of Shah Rukh Khan’s stature visits an outdoor venue, there are more aspects that need to be taken into account. Says Verma, “There are 100 more things, which come into force when SRK goes for a promotion. It’s a big logistic exercise. There has to be an ambulance on standby. What if his mobile gets jammed? What if there is power failure? What if there’s firing from the crowd?” Sometimes there are about 60 to 70 marine commandos guarding Shah Rukh. It amounts to four to five guards to protect him at a gathering of about 1,000 people. The highest Verma has ever been paid is Rs 32 lakh to guard the set of a major film, which he doesn’t want to name. He charged the producers Rs 32 lakh for an eight-month assignment, which required manpower of 70 people.

Home front
Another key businessman in the sector is Captian Swaren Salaria who owns Trig Guard Force. His area of expertise is securing star residences. He is currently in charge of the residences of the Amitabh Bachchan, Kajol, Ashutosh Gowariker and offices of Red Chilies. “Bollywood stars have a large following. Fans from all over the country are desperate to get a glimpse of them at any time. Then there is the underworld who’s always trying to latch on to them,” says executive director Brigadier DD Bhalla.

Then there are people like Malaika Arora Khan who call for security only when it’s needed. Bodybuilder Nilesh Mohan Pawar has been guarding her for the last three years. He states, “It’s the best possible job. Madam calls me only when she goes for events.” Nilesh earns a cool Rs 13,000 for following her four or five times a month for not more than five hours a day.

There have been many situations that invited trouble for these star entourages too. Of course, most of them carry their government licensed .32 pistols. But they are not always lucky to dodge pandemonium. In 2006, Angelina Jolie’s bodyguards Thomas McAdam, Robert Dunn and Michael Brett were arrested, in Anjuman-E-Islam school in VT, for manhandling people and hurling racial epithets.

Security is big business
Ronit Roy follows a strict code of conduct, which doesn’t allow him to divulge details of a star’s security. “These people have laid their trust in me for guarding them. Letting the whole world know about their security details could be detrimental to their lives,” he says.

However, a prominent security expert doesn’t mind talking off the record. He reveals, “Most stars go for a monthly package. There are operatives who are trained in Israel and South Africa as well as people coached locally. They come for as high as Rs 15 - 40,000 per day or a monthly charge of Rs 1 to 5 lakh. There are bodyguards who even charge as high as $900 a day.” Biggies like SRK and Salman Khan completely rely on their security when they have to make an appearance. Shah Rukh has Yasin who tails him everywhere, even abroad. Salman has Shera for company.

Abhishek-Aishwarya wedding (2007): Three photo-journalists were allegedly attacked by security guards outside Prateeksha. Over 100 media persons held a demonstration outside the bungalow in Juhu. Amitabh Bachchan later apologised saying that the guards belonged to Amar Singh, guarded by National Security Guard commandos.

Angelina Jolie’s shoot (2006): Angelina Jolie’s bodyguards Thomas McAdam, 47, Robert Dunn, 35, and Michael Brett, 50, were all arrested for assault, while she was filming for A Mighty Heart at the Anjuman-E-Islam school. Racial epithets were hurled at the press and parents who came to pick up their children.

Aamir-Kiran wedding (2005): Ronit Roy went to the extent of blocking the public road leading to the hotel. Media personnel expressed their anger at the treatment meted out to them by Khan’s security, which even led to blows. The police registered a non-cognisable (NC) offence against the security guards deployed at the venue.

Abhishek-Aishwarya wedding (2007): Three photo-journalists were allegedly attacked by security guards outside Prateeksha. Over 100 media persons held a demonstration outside the bungalow in Juhu. Amitabh Bachchan later apologised saying that the guards belonged to Amar Singh, guarded by National Security Guard commandos.

Angelina Jolie’s shoot (2006): Angelina Jolie’s bodyguards Thomas McAdam, 47, Robert Dunn, 35, and Michael Brett, 50, were all arrested for assault, while she was filming for A Mighty Heart at the Anjuman-E-Islam school. Racial epithets were hurled at the press and parents who came to pick up their children.

Aamir-Kiran wedding (2005): Ronit Roy went to the extent of blocking the public road leading to the hotel. Media personnel expressed their anger at the treatment meted out to them by Khan’s security, which even led to blows. The police registered a non-cognisable (NC) offence against the security guards deployed at the venue.

‘I never allow anyone to cross a certain limit when he is near the star’

Dayaram Yadav, 42, has guarded stars like Steven Seagal, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Aamir Khan, Sachin Tendulkar and Muttiah Muralitharan in his 15-year career

I have been a bodyguard for almost everyone in the industry. I am a trained body builder and have participated in state level championships. I didn’t win any major medals, though came close to it twice. It’s difficult to guard major stars. They are more susceptible to crowd trouble. I never allow anyone to cross a certain limit when he/she is near the star. If they do, I know how to deal with them. About a year ago, a prominent FM station organised an event at the JW Marriott. The entry was restricted. Hrithik Roshan and wife Sussanne sat on a sofa in the front porch interacting with the press.

Suddenly I noticed four guys who looked suspicious. They behaved very differently from the rest of the invitees. I made my move and grabbed of one of them by his arm. He revealed that the remaining three were also his friends. They had sneaked from the back entrance facing the sea. How they did it, was not clear. Even they were surprised and asked how I came to know about them. I told them this is what we are trained for. My last major assignment was guarding Salman Khan at Amara in Kemp’s Corner. There were about 1,000 people who had gathered just to have a glimpse of the star. The policemen in mufti, who were stationed there, couldn’t recognise me. In fact, one them even reprimanded me for treating him like a fan.