BENGALURU: Yeh hai Bollywood, meri jaan. Yahan dil milein ya na milein, hath milate rehena.
The sensational film-land killings which rocked the entire nation and generated unprecedented media frenzy have now been named the Bollywood Murders. In its official statement to the press, the Mumbai Police has named the killer as one Manjeet, who when confronted with the overwhelming evidence, made a full confession.
The motive behind the killings was, however, not revealed and neither did the crime branch’s Special Case Squad give out any photograph of this Manjeet, making it impossible to know the perpetrator’s sex or identity.
‘We have deliberately withheld certain information from the press and public alike, purely to safeguard the reputation of a number of innocent people who found themselves dragged unwittingly into this sordid affair,’ a police spokesperson clarified. But when quizzed about the rumour that more than one arrest was made, the gentleman declined to comment, looking rather uncomfortable, and ended the press conference abruptly.
It was all this acute secrecy that attracted my publisher to this extraordinary case, who, in turn, commissioned me to get to the bottom of the mystery and unmask it before the public in the form of a crime novel. Now, under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have had a problem uncovering the truth, considering that I am a former investigative journalist who had always enjoyed an excellent rapport with the police department. But this time around things were decidedly different, as all my efforts to get to the heart of the matter were repeatedly shot down by the very people whose friendship I had cultivated over the years.
Why, even Mumbai Police’s finest, Senior Inspector Hoshiyar Khan, who single-handedly cracked the case, was at his uncooperative best, albeit with his trademark smile and impeccable manners very much in play.
‘I have no doubt, SK, that sooner or later you will uncover the whole truth. And when you do, ask yourself the question, what is of greater importance-your desire for an explosive bestselling novel, or the need to safeguard certain reputations, which will undoubtedly lie in tatters once the facts are made public?’ the good inspector said as he walked me to the door and bid me farewell.
The following day itself, I set out in pursuit of this one big story the whole world wanted revealed, while those in power wanted it concealed. During my quest, I would bribe, cajole and coerce a host of gossips, busybodies and eavesdropping underlings connected to the glamour world and the police. They were, in fact, collectors of whispers here and there who became privy to the information which interested me.
But today, as I sit at my desk a little after midnight, with all the facts no longer beyond my reach, I understand without doubt that Inspector Khan was right and the truth about the Bollywood Murders must never be revealed. However, I have decided to create a detailed account of this complex and terrifying matter, strictly for my eyes and personal benefit, perhaps as a grim reminder of the baseness of the human soul, which in this case was a dark, malevolent entity, who spawned a seed most evil, and so its progeny was twisted and diseased.
The date was December the fifteenth. The place, Mumbai’s iconic Gulistan Studio. Raju, the security guard, glanced at his watch. It showed twenty minutes past ten. He then stretched his legs and rose from his chair inside the makeshift cabin by the studio’s main gate. For the next few minutes, Raju continued to stare out of the cabin window into the darkness which encompassed him, looking ill at ease, no doubt from a sense of sheer reluctance which he encountered night after night, just before venturing forth into the winter chill and eerie solitude to conduct his customary rounds throughout the length and breadth of the studio.
‘No need to go about patrolling this jungle area, crawling with wild animals, in the dead of night. No one is here to see if you went on your rounds or not.
The studio is always deserted night and day, and because of all the cost cutting, you are the only security guard on duty, so just sit back in your cabin, turn on the radio and go to sleep.’ Nimbu Lal, his predecessor, had advised.
Fair words on hindsight, considering that Gulistan Studio was located in Mumbai’s north-western suburb of Borivali, an area surrounded by dense forest; so it was not uncommon to have the occasional jackal or leopard saunter past a bustling film set, albeit from a safe distance.
But once the studio announced it was close to being sold, and stopped renting itself out altogether, nightly visitations by both scavengers and predators went up at least tenfold, for in the absence of the arc lights, cameras and film crews, Gulistan Studio was a dark and desolate place, fifty thousand square yards of ghost town bordering the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, whose nocturnal inhabitants, suddenly unfettered from the boundaries of human civilization, had found themselves a brand-new playground. But in spite of such imminent danger staring him in the face, Raju seemed unperturbed, so much so that his actions were always contrary to Nimbu Lal’s line of thinking, and all because of the lesson his father had ingrained in him a long time ago, that when a task is undertaken, it becomes the person’s sacred duty to see it through. And besides, the motto of his employer, Bullet Security Agency, weighed heavily on his mind, which wasn’t the case with the slacker Nimbu Lal, who didn’t consider the tag line ‘you hire, we fire’ inspirational. So with a cast-iron look of finality burning bright in his eyes, he wrapped his blanket around himself real tight, then tugged at his monkey cap with both hands, after which he reached out for his lathi and his flashlight lying nearby, then opened the cabin door and stepped out into the cold night air.
Excerpt courtesy Penguin Books