In an incident that rakes up the long-standing tensions between Bollywood and the Mumbai underworld, gangster Ravi Pujari has reportedly threatened singer Arijit Singh. According to Mumbai Mirror, Pujari — who has been notorious for threatening and attempting to extort money from the likes of Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar, and Karan Johar in the past — got in touch with the 'Tum Hi Ho' singer and demanded Rs 5 crore from him.
However, bizarrely enough, Pujari's love for Singh's talent turned out to be the latter's saviour. When Singh's manager Tarsane told Pujari that Singh would be unable to afford that amount, Pujari reportedly relented and pushed for the singer to do two shows organised by his friend for free.
This is a story so bizarre that you could imagine it being part of, say, an Abbas-Mustan potboiler.
"Dekh le bhai, kal subah tak Rs 5 crore ka intezaam kar le varna..."
"Sir, please understand. Hamaare paas paanch crore nahi hai. Itney paise itni jaldi kahaan se laayenge? Kuchh toh keejiye."
"Hmm. Achha, bhidu, ek kaampromise [a compromise that involves some prospective kaam] karte hain. Tera bachcha achha gaata hai. Mast awaaz hai uska; apun ka ladka log sab uska fan hai. Ek-do show free mein karne ko bol aur apan sab fittoos. Kya boltai?"
A screen-grab of an old photo of Ravi Pujari, one of India's most notorious gangsters.
The real story, however, isn't half as entertaining. According to Singh, this whole incident appears to be the doing of a certain promoter who had been angling to handle shows from the singer's upcoming United States tour, which takes place in September.
Singh told Mirror that there was a promoter they decided not to go ahead with because he kept "bargaining for a lower budget". As it turned out, this promoter used his connections and got in touch with Pujari to get his work done. In turn, Pujari called up Tarsane (he never spoke to Singh directly) and put pressure on him to comply with his aforementioned demands.
"This is the first time something like this has happened to me. And I don't think it is a big deal at all. All organisers want to make money and this is getting out of hand because of Ravi Pujari's name being involved. It's all a part and parcel of the business," Singh was quoted as saying.
He added that he doesn't mind doing shows for free, but doesn't appreciate "being manipulated".
Singh's manager approached the police at Mumbai's Oshiwara Police Station; however, it is being reported that Singh refused to file an FIR against Pujari and said 'no' to police protection. The cops, however, have made a diary entry of the incident.
Mumbai-based Pujari is one of India's most notorious gangsters and has been operating since the '90s, rising up amongst the ranks by targeting high-profile figures in the construction and hospitality industries.
Wanted on several charges including murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and illegal possession of firearms, he is believed to have a fake Australian passport and has supposedly also operated from Australia as well as Dubai in the past. He routinely threatens Bollywood personalities, demanding a cut of their earnings against harm to their person, properties or family members.
While the Mumbai Police has been attempting to nab him for years, since September 2014 they have managed to isolate his network of henchmen and shooters. As of April this year, they seem to have made some headway in getting more information about Pujari through the arrest of a few of his aides.