Drunken goons thrash Alt Balaji's film crew, Mumbai cops 'extort Rs 50,000'
Industry body approaches authorities after crew of a web show are assaulted by drunk men in Ghodbunder Road; when the victims approached a patrol van, the cops allegedly threatened to drag them to court
Four drunk goons allegedly assaulted the crew of Alt Balaji's upcoming show Fixxer on Ghodbunder Road on Wednesday. The cast — Mahie Gill, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Shabbir Ahluwalia and Karishma Sharma — escaped, but director of photography Santosh Thundiyil required six stitches to his head, while director Soham Shah was beaten so badly he had convulsions.
AS if that weren't enough, the police patrolling the area allegedly took R50,000 from the crew instead of helping them. Recounting the horror, producer Sakett Saawhney, who was present when the incident occurred, told mid-day, "We were shooting at the Vinayaga Marine Petro Limited since 7 am and had all the necessary permissions for it. Suddenly around 4 pm, four men, who were drunk, barged in with sticks and iron rods and said, 'yeh location humara hai, aap ke coordinator ne double-cross karke kaise liya hai [this location is ours, why did your coordinator double-cross and take it].' There are several coordinators for the same location so I don't know who double-crossed whom."
He added, "Even before we could discuss anything, they started hitting everyone and didn't give us any time to vacate the place. They manhandled the women on the set and also started throwing all the equipment. When Soham tried to intervene, he was hit on his head and suffered a blackout. Mahie's bodyguard also came to our rescue and his shoulder has now been dislocated. We are all shaken up."
No help from cops
Saawhney claimed they didn't get any help from the police either. "After hitting us, the men suddenly ran away. While we were helping each other, a police patrol van passed by. The cops entered compound and locked it from inside. They told us to come to the court with them to decide who was right in the matter. We had equipment worth crores and so, we asked them to allow us to take it, for which they demanded R50,000. We had to succumb to their demand and give the money to them. They told us not to open our mouths in front of their seniors."
He said they decided not to go to the cops and instead approach the Indian Film Television Directors' Association (IFTDA), to request them to intervene. "We didn't have time because we had to take our crew to the hospital. Soham is getting an MRI done. We have approached the association, who in turn have reached out to the commissioner of police, and the Chief Minister. Let's see what happens from here," said Saawhney. Ashoke Pandit, president of IFTDA and members of the Federation of Western Indian Cine Employees approached the CP and CM, requesting them to intervene. They even lodged a complaint at the Kasarvadali police station.
'Last day of shoot'
Meanwhile, Gill, who managed to escape unhurt, is in shock. She said, "Violence is completely unacceptable. I somehow escaped but not many were fortunate. I tried to help around and took our DOP to the [Bhakti Vedanta] hospital, where he was administered six stitches. My driver has also been hit. Today was the last day of our shoot. It is really unfortunate as we have never seen something like this happen."
Kishore Khairnar, senior police inspector at the Kasarvadavali police station said, "The place where the shoot was going on had already been booked by someone else. Therefore, when the other party got to know about it, they came to the location, stopped the shoot and manhandled the crew and some actors. The entire crew had run away after the incident. We reached the spot when we were informed."
"A few of the members then came forward to register a complaint. We have filed an FIR under section 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means) of the Indian Penal Code and other sections related to rioting. We have also dispatched teams to arrest the accused. The complainants hadn't sought any permission from us. There are allegations about a police 'settlement' in the matter, but these are false," he added.
Speaking to mid-day, deputy commissioner of police (Thane), Avinash Ambure, denied allegations of cops taking any bribe, "This is absolutely false. In fact, none of the members of the federation mentioned any such incident happening so it's wrong to accuse us of it. We are still taking down the details [at the time of going to press]. It seems that there was an internal fight between the venue coordinators. The person [identified only as Shiva] who was coordinating for this web series was called for questioning and he agreed to not applying for police permission, which is mandatory for a shoot. So, we weren't aware of this. In fact, even as we speak, we have already identified the miscreants and are locating them. Soon, they will be arrested."
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Actress Mahie Gill and other crew members of Alt Balaji's show Fixerr assaulted by goons