A promoter of Bollywood events in the West admits that the Mumbai underworld is involved in such events.
This lends credence to one theory that Shah Rukh Khan’s detention at Newark Liberty Airport on August 14 ago by US immigration authorities was because his name, along with that of other actors, was flagged because of this connection.
London-based Farhath Hussain, along with younger brother Altaf, was the promoter of the South Asian Carnival in Chicago and Houston that Khan was scheduled to attend.
“I am the victim here. I have received death threats that if I did not give into (the underworld’s) extortion demands, my children would be targeted. Everyone knows the threats were from Abu Salem and Anees Ibrahim.”
The latter are both Mumbai gangsters.
Instead of cash, he said, the extortion was normally in form of being told to direct a particular show free to a specific promoter. “They would want one city or an area like New Jersey. They would make a deal with that person,” Hussain said.
Another event promoter in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut area, Bharat Jotwani, however, said there was no underworld involvement because “there’s not enough money.”
He claimed that such shows did not even break even until they sold 92 per cent of their seats. Concerts featuring megastars like Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and Hrithik Roshan had a meagre eight to nine per cent profit margin. But Jotwani admits he had received a threat six years ago but he had “told them to take a walk.”
Hussain says that he had left the business for nine years following a phone threat where some had told him: “Hum tumharee bachchon ko itne goliyan marengee, ginna mushkil ho jayeagaa.” (We will pump so many bullets in your children that it will difficult to count them.”)
Out of fear, Hussain stopped such events and stopped visiting India. The Shah Rukh Khan show marked Hussian’s return to business. He believes many of the overseas Bollywood shows are done with the underworld’s “cooperation.” He said, “I did not agree to their terms. Those who did shows since 2000 may have done so.”
The national promoter of the South Asia Carnival, Houston-based Rajender Singh, sponsored Khan’s P-3 work visa. He dismissed the theory.
“It wasn’t because of the organiser, it was random checking,” he insisted. “What about Saif Ali Khan, Katrina Kaif? They were all here.” Neither of the latter two film stars were detained.
Hussain was detained for more than an hour at Toronto airport en route to Chicago by a Canada-based US Customs and Border Protection team. “I missed my flight,” he said. “They asked my why I was travelling so much.” He told Khan about this incident, saying “this normally happens at airports.”
With each Bollywood show raking in a million dollars a performance, fraud and worse are often not too far behind. Hussain’s former partner, Vijay Taneja, was last year sentenced to seven years in prison for mortgage fraud and money laundering by US authorities.