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November 5, 2001

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The threats continue...

Two eminent Indian filmmakers -- Gulzar and Shyam Benegal -- have admitted the existence of an 'underworld hold' on a section of the Hindi film industry.

According to the two, mafia is mainly interested in getting overseas rights of the films and use it for money laundering.

"There is so much talk about the underworld. Where is it ? Where it isn't? Nobody knows. " Shyam Benegal, pioneer of new cinema and Gulzar, a legendary figure of Indian cinema, tells PTI in London. Shyam Benegal

Both the filmmakers were attending the launch of the book -- Bollywood -- Popular Indian Cinema -- edited by Lalit Mohan Joshi, founder-member of South Asian Cinema Foundation (SACF), London.

Bollywood has become one of the largest film industries in the world that produces above 800 films per year. Presently, the industry attracts over a billion spectators world-wide, claims the book. The 352-page book written by prominent voices in film writing, is being touted as a guide to Hindi cinema.

To a query on the control of underworld on the film industry, Benegal who has written an extensive chapter on Making Movies In Mumbaisays, "When real estate business came down, the mafia, which was involved in it, turned to the film industry. "I don't think it affects everybody though", he states.

"One keeps hearing about the mafia keeping the gun on people's head, saying "Overseas distribution doh (Give us overseas distribution rights)," Benegal, producer of films like Ankur and Zubeidaa states.

Director of critically acclaimed films like Aandhi, Mausam and Maachis and well-known lyricist-Gulzar, says, "Whenever there is big money involved, the mafia is present. Be it diamond business,construction business or politics."Gulzar

"It is also a method of making money and laundering money -- you cannot keep your money in black constantly. It has to surface some day or the other," points out Benegal.

In the past, he says, much of the money that came in film business, was primarily from the film industry.

"That has changed now. When funds come from outside, they are investors and not professional film people," he states.

"If the money comes from exhibitors, distributors or producers then you are within the complex of the business.Then there is a great deal of understanding of the business and give and take. A lot of it has changed in the last 30 years."

When asked if Government's decision to finance films through financial institutions had borne fruit, Benegal says that in India, IDBI is the only financial institution that is now working out a system whereby they will be able to finance films.

"IDBI is working out a method. One of the systems they have found is to go directly through a public limited company or loan directly to film makers after evaluating the risk factor,"adding IDBI has already financed prominent film producer from Hyderabad, D Rama Naidu in making two films.

PTI

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