Pinky Basrao had the Sadim touch. All that the Punjabi film producer, arrested for his alleged involvement in an inter-state drug trafficking racket, wanted was to live it up, but every business he touched folded up. Smarting from one loss after another, a cash-strapped Basrao believed that a film based on the drugs trade would be his redeemer and immersed himself in research.
But in no time, he blurred the lines between fiction and reality, and crossed over to the dark side. So thorough was Basrao's research for his film, Sher-e-Punjab -- which he planned to write and produce -- that he learnt the ropes of the drug trade. He then allegedly took to peddling, hoping to make a quick buck.
Sources in the Mumbai anti-narcotics cell (ANC), which arrested Basrao from Delhi on March 9, said the producer provided drugs, primarily mephedrone aka meow meow, to a Mumbai-based courier company owned by NCP worker Sunil Dhutia, who then peddled them in the market.
Dhutia and an aide, Vijay Nadar, were arrested on February 11 with 1 kg of mephedrone. During interrogation, they revealed Basrao alleged involvement.
Pinky Basrao was arrested on March 9
Couldn't catch a break
Basrao, who holds dual citizenship of India and Canada, has told ANC officials that he moved to Canada after his marriage in 1986, and worked as a motor mechanic. Initially, he did well for himself, and set up a business selling motor parts. But he shut it down after incurring huge losses, and opened a pizzeria in 1992. He ran it for three years, but made little profit.
Tapping the craze for Indian celebrity stage shows in Canada, Basrao began selling tickets for these events. After tasting some success, in 1995 he set up an event management firm that organised celebrity performances.
During this period, he established contacts in the Punjabi film and music fraternity and beginning 2000, he hosted around 20 shows with performers like ghazal singer Jagjit Singh, actors Shilpa Shetty and Dharmendra, and singer Bhagwant Mann.
His 2008 movie, Yaariyan, was received well
Stepping into tinsel town
But his heart didn't lie in event management. He raised more funds and produced Gurdas Man and Om Puri-starrer Punjabi film 'Yariyaan' in 2008. The movie, shot entirely in Canada, was received well.
Buoyed by its success, he decided to produce and write another film, Sher-e-Punjab, based on the illicit drug trade in the northern state. He returned to India in 2009-10 and approached financiers, but failed to raise funds for it.
Disappointed, he shelved the film and opened a luxury hotel in Birmingham in 2011 with his life's savings. But that business, too, went kaput.
He returned to India in 2013 and turned into a loan mediator for clients in Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad and other metros. But this job, too, wasn't profitable.
Pointers from research
He then picked up Sher-e-Punjab again and decided to immerse himself in research for the film. “Since he studied drug trafficking extensively, he learnt how to use to it to earn money,” said an ANC official.
Shivdeep Lande, deputy commissioner of police, Mumbai ANC, said Basrao had claimed during his interrogation that he turned to a life of drug peddling after extensive reading up. "He wrote the script for Sher-e-Panjab, but failed to raise enough funds to produce it. We are getting more details from him on the drug peddling syndicate."
Basrao allegedly delivered his first consignment, 5 kg of mephedrone, last November, but didn't get the full payment owing to demonetisation. He also allegedly helped exchange high value notes for new ones, but made little out of this, too.
His game was finally up after Dhutia was arrested in February.
He hosted celeb shows in Canada with names like Shilpa Shetty, Dharmendra and singer Bhagwant Mann. His Punjabi film Yaariyan (2008) starring Bhoomika and Gurdas Mann did well at the box office