Friday, January 24, 2003

Preity Zinta: True Bollywood Heroine

Great story, and actually well written story in the Washington Post yesterday discussing the actress Preity Zinta's offering of legitimate testimony about the pervasive influence of organized crime in the Bollywood film industry. There was none of that, "Preity Zinta, the Reese Witherspoon of the Indian Film Industry" crap that is usually in those articles discussing Bollywood. It was a straightforward piece and well written article. Here is an excerpt

Asked whether she felt her testimony had put her safety at risk, she replied, "for sure," lashing out angrily at law enforcement officials who she believes leaked the details of the supposedly secret court proceeding. "It was a huge risk I was taking in there, and I expected to be protected," she said, sitting in her office in a Bombay suburb near several of the major studios. "I felt extremely betrayed." Zinta said she had no wish to launch a personal crusade against underworld influence in Bollywood -- "I wouldn't want it to be made into a big deal, because it's just going to create lots of problems for me in the future" -- and defended fellow stars who have been accused of cultivating chummy relationships with mob bosses based in Karachi, Pakistan, and Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.

Crime bosses have also regarded Bollywood personalities as ripe targets for extortion, and those who don't cooperate can play a heavy price. A top music executive was killed by mob hit men in 1997. And in 2000, armed assailants shot and wounded Rakesh Roshan, a director and the father of heartthrob actor Hrithik Roshan. The director was allegedly targeted for refusing a gangster's demand to line up Hrithik's services for a movie he was backing. Such episodes have contributed to an atmosphere of fear among Bollywood's glitterati, some of whom are under full-time police protection. (Zinta said she was offered protection after her testimony but declined for the sake of her privacy.) For law enforcement officials, nothing so captures the corrosive influence of organized crime in Bollywood as the case against Shah, the diamond merchant-turned-movie mogul who owns a fleet of BMWs and reportedly paid 300,000 rupees, about $6,250, for an autographed pillowcase used by Michael Jackson during a stay at Bombay's Oberoi Hotel. The court case turns on allegations that Shah helped an associate of Shakeel's -- another Karachi-based crime boss named Dawood Ibrahim -- in an extortion scheme. Shah, who is currently free on bail, has denied any wrongdoing. The case has also brought to light allegations of mob involvement in the making of "Chori Chori, Chupke Chupke," in which Zinta played a leading role. During the shooting of the film, Zinta received a phone call from a man who claimed to be an associate of Shakeel's, ordering her to pay 5 million rupees, about $104,000, or "face consequences," according to details of her testimony that were leaked.

Her testimony was supposed to be sealed as it was supposed to be a closed trial. As if there is such a thing in India.


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