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Monday, 12 August, 2002, 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK
Devdas 'funded by gangsters'
Devdas
Madhuri Dixit stars in Shah's film Devdas
Indian police are investigating allegations that Devdas - the most expensive Indian film made - was funded by gangsters.

Producer Bharat Shah is alleged to have received Mafia funds to make the film and dragging the picture into the ongoing controversy surrounding the Indian film industry's links with the underworld.


Does the underworld ever give money? They only take money

Bharat Shah
The 6.7m (500 million rupee) epic has been Bollywood's biggest hit of the year and has done well overseas, especially in the UK where the film took 70,000 on its opening day.

"We are investigating whether Shah was offered funds by the underworld," Bombay police's anti-extortion chief Pradeep Shinde said.

Mr Shah has denied taking money from the underworld.

The controversy began when news channel Star TV took a call from someone calling themselves Abu Salem, claiming to have invested 480 million rupees (6.4m) in Devdas.

Last week Mr Shah asked for police security after receiving threats from the Mafia, allegedly from Karachi-based gangster Mr Salem, who is said to have wanted to speak to him about Devdas.

Bharat Shah
Shah was arrested last year after underworld allegations
Police are also looking into fresh allegations of threats by Mr Salem.

Mr Shah was quoted as telling a local newspaper: "I have not taken any money from Abu Salem. I do not even know Salem.

"It's my own money I spent on the film. The 500 million rupees that I spent is all through cheque payment.

"Does the underworld ever give money? They only take money."

Many top actors, producers and directors have sought police protection over recent weeks over links between Bollywood and the underworld.

Devdas
Aishwarya Rai and Shahrukh Khan appear in the film
The producer has now petitioned a court to allow him to travel outside India on 31 August to attend a family wedding.

He was arrested last year over other allegations linking him to the underworld - which he also denies - and is currently on bail after being in jail for more than a year.

Last month police submitted tapes to a Bombay court of conversation reputed to be between film star Sanjay Dutt and mafia don Chota Shakeel, discussing a plan to kill heart-throb Hrithik Roshan.

Dutt is already alleged to have played a part in a series of bomb blasts which killed 300 people in Bombay in 1993. That case is still pending.

Gangsters are also known to have issued extortion threats to actors Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, and Salman Khan, as well as actresses Urmila Mtondka, Juhi Chawla and Sonali Bendre.

See also:

08 Jan 01 | South Asia
10 Apr 02 | Entertainment
10 Jan 01 | South Asia
31 Jul 02 | South Asia
29 Jul 02 | South Asia
17 Jun 02 | Entertainment
12 Jul 02 | Entertainment
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