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When Chhota Rajan inspired Bollywood

In the Bollywood world, which has oft been captivated by the underbelly of the underworld nexus, has brought glimpses of the story of mafia don Rajendra Sadashiv Nikhalje alias Chhota Rajan -- a former aide and strongman-turned-foe of fugitive Dawood Ibrahim -- who has been arrested by the Indonesian police in Bali.

Poster of movie 'Company'
Poster of movie 'Company'

What made Chhota Rajan's life worth a cinematic treatment was how he fought his way into the gangster world.

Born into a middle class Marathi family, Chhota Rajan took to black marketing of Bollywood film tickets and gradually made his way to bigger crimes like murder, extortion, arms smuuggling and more. He earned his name Chhota Rajan only when he took over the gang led by his mentor Bada Rajan after he was killed in the 1970s.

Ram Gopal Varma's 'Vaastav: The Reality' and Mahesh Manjrekar's 'Vaastav' are some of the movies that blatantly depicted characters inspired by Chhota Rajan, who operated from Mumbai and is wanted in India for a series of serious crimes and murders. He has been nabbed in Bali on Sunday.

'Vaastav: The Reality', a critically acclaimed film released in 1999, is a hard-hitting tale of the transformation of an innocent young man and how he gets sucked into the dark and dreadful world of the mafias, and emerges as a powerful gangster. The film, though primarily about guns and goons, it also had a slight love angle.

The film, produced by Chhota Rajan's brother Deepak Nikalje himself, continues to be one of Sanjay Dutt's finest performances.

Chhota Rajan has not been at the core of many movies, unlike dons like Haji Mastan, Karim Lala, Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Shakeel, but the 2002 film 'Company' another film that reflected on his life.

Described by many as a 'fictional expose' of the mafia organisation D-Company, run by Dawood Ibrahim, the movie particularly zoomed the camera on the fallout between Dawood and his close aide Chhota Rajan. Intense actor Ajay Devgn starred as Malik -- loosely based on Dawood, while Vivek Oberoi lent his raw acting skills in a powerful performance as Chandu -- a take on Chhota Rajan.

Having garnered critical acclaim, the movie also, in its own way, traced Chhota Rajan's rise to fame in the underworld, and his eventual rift with Dawood.

Varma's 'Satya 2' also seemed to have hints of Chhota Rajan's life, but the filmmaker, who is known for his deft handling of such sensitive and crime-related subjects, had denied any such influences.

Bollywood's fascination with the underworld has continued and evolved over the years.

From the 1989 film 'Parinda', which was India's entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film; to 'Khalnayak', 'Satya', 'Hathyar', 'Maqbool', 'D', 'Gangster', 'Shootout at Lokhandwala', 'Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai', 'Shootout at Wadala' and 'Once Upon ay Time in Mumbai Dobaara!'.

In fact, an upcoming movie titled 'Haseena' will see actress Sonakshi Sinha essaying Dawood Ibrahim’s sister in a biopic to be directed by Apoorva Lakhia.

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