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Friday, 9 March, 2001, 13:20 GMT
Bollywood 'underworld' film is sell-out
By Sanjeev Srivastava in Bombay
A star-studded Indian film allegedly financed by underworld money opened to packed houses in Bombay on Friday - despite threats from some right-wing Hindu organisations to disrupt screenings of the film.
Heavy advance booking for the film - Chori Chori Chupke Chupke - in cinemas across Bombay ensured that the controversial film became a commercial success on the day of its release.
Amongst those who watched the film on the first day were scores of policemen in different cinemas of the city as ultra-nationalist Hindu activists of the right-wing Shiv Sena and Vishva Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) had threatened to disrupt screenings.
They say that the film was financed by Indian gangsters close to the Pakistan secret service.
But there were only some minor protests - including in India's capital city, Delhi where the police arrested a group of Shiv Sena activists demonstrating outside a cinema.
The reaction of other film enthusiasts was along similar lines.
Chori Chori Chupke Chupke was due for release in December last year - but got delayed first because of the arrest of the film's producer, Nazeem Rizvi, and then the film's financier and president of the Indian diamond merchant's association, Bharat Shah.
Both were arrested on charges that they were using underworld or slush funds to finance the song and dance musical which stars some of the biggest stars in Bollywood - including Salman Khan, Preity Zinta and Rani Mukherjee.
Both Shah and Rizvi - who have been booked under a special anti-Mafia act by the police and are still to be released on bail - have denied police charges.
There is another interesting twist to this saga.
The commercial success of the film could be good news for the state government.
A special court hearing on the involvement of the underworld in its funding has ruled that until the case is settled, all box office proceeds should go to the state treasury.
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