KOCHI: Actor Shamna Kasim was just another prey for the gang which has been extorting money from several small-time film actors and fashion models. And it was to obtain more money -- since they had been successful in getting the minnows to pay up -- that the gang started eyeing bigger targets and thus Shamna came in their crosshairs. The gang used to approach ‘extras’ offering meaty roles in upcoming movies. After getting acquainted with them, they demand money and gold.They blackmail them, threatening to publicly shame them by publishing online photos, audio clips and videos of the victims. In some cases, the gang approached the family members of the actors with a marriage proposal, like what happened with Shamna.
Disclosing the gang’s modus operandi, Vijay Sakhare, Commissioner of Police, Kochi city, said. “They first get acquainted with junior actors. And then the gang demand money from the artists after threatening to publish their images. It is to amass more money thatthe accused decided to scale up their potential targets.” Beneath the glamour, the case pertaining to the alleged attempt to blackmail Shamna Kasim has yet again raised questions on the link between the Malayalam film industry, gold smuggling, and the extortionists. While the actor abduction case of 2017, in which actor Dileep is one of the key accused, had thrown light on the unholy nexus, the Shamna case points to a similar modus operandi. The lone difference this time round is that it could not be executed following the complaint lodged by Shamna.
Actor Dharmajan Bolgatty, summoned for questioning in connection with the blackmailing case, had disclosed that he was approached by gold smugglers seeking phone numbers of Shamna Kasim and fellow actor Miya George. However, the commissioner ruled out reports of the gangs links with the gold smuggling syndicate. “The gold smuggling tale was spun by the gang. Till now, the police have not received any clues establishing their links with gold smuggling,” he added. However, as many as 20 women have come forward with complaints of alleged extortion and nine FIRs have been registered at various police stations within Kochi City police limits so far.
Until now,10 persons have been arrested in the Shamna case, with three of them being granted bail. It seems the accused had received assistance from persons having links with the film industry and this too is under the scanner. Officers said production controller Shaji Pattikkara had provided the mobile number of the actors to the gang. “It has been found that they had collected the numbers of the actors from two others also,” said Sakhare.
According to Unnikrishnan B, general secretary, Film Employees’ Federation of Kerala (FEFKA), “Those engaging in these sort of illegal activities have hardly any connection to the film world. But these operators tarnish the entire industry”. He said those keen on joining the film industry should exercise more caution.Meanwhile, FEFKA has launched helpline numbers and announced a short film to spread awareness on fake casting call agencies and people exploiting fresh faces on the pretext of offering chances in films. The office-bearers of the association said woman artists can avail themselves of the services of FEFKA women’s wing.
The office-bearers of the association said woman artists can avail themselves of the services of FEFKA women’s wing. Women and transwomen can call up the women’s wing of FEFKA at the following numbers: +91 9846342226 or +91 9645342226 -- to report casting-related issues or instances of misconduct.Callers can also inquire about the real status of the casting calls via these helpline numbers.
The association will make registration mandatory for casting agencies and casting directors
The details of those who registered with FEFKA will be handed over to the producers’ association and Association of Malayalam Movie Artists(AMMA)
FEFKA announces a short film to spread awareness on fake casting call agencies and people exploiting fresh faces