Kurla's TikTok star's family, friends unaware of his criminal past
Before 28-year-old Abhimanyu Gupta earned 9mn fans on the video-sharing app, he was a history-sheeter. Cops say that his new-found fame only made him a more desperate criminal
There is a sense of disbelief and denial as Afroz Malik speaks of his close friend and TikTok star Abhimanyu Gupta, who was arrested for burglary this week. The businessman, like Gupta's family, reiterates that his friend could not have been involved in a crime like this. "He is the kind of person who did not take a rupee from me. How would he steal?" Malik asks.
Kurla-resident Gupta, who boasts of 9 million followers on TikTok, was arrested by the Juhu police this week, for breaking into the house of an elderly couple in January last year and decamping with 342 gm gold worth R10.26 lakh, two watches, an LED TV and a smartphone. Pandarinath Wavhal, senior inspector of Juhu police station, said that he committed the crime to maintain the lifestyle that came with his new-found fame on social media. "He wanted to look like a star in those TikTok videos, but did not have enough money to purchase expensive clothes, shoes and goggles."
Gupta and his family lived in a dilapidated room in Kurla West. While his family shifted to Diva three years ago, he stayed back and moved into a rented room with friends. Pics/Rajesh Gupta
But Malik doesn't think so. "He didn't like expensive perfumes or clothes. That was not his style." According to friends and family, 28-year-old Gupta, who worked at a construction site of a builder before he found his calling on TikTok, was a new-age artiste and not a thief.
'My son is a simple boy'
In between sobs, Gupta's mum Mayadevi recounts that in all these years, she has not received a single complaint about her son. Gupta grew up in Bailbazar in Kurla West. "But, three years ago, we moved to Diva, where I now live with my younger son Ganga Prasad," says Mayadevi. Gupta, who is fondly called Rinku at home, chose to stay back in Kurla, and would visit his family every 10 days. "He and his friends stayed together in a rented room, as he worked nearby. The daily commute from Diva would have been difficult."
Afroz Malik, a friend of Gupta's, says the cops' theory that he committed the crime to maintain his lavish lifestyle was false, because Gupta didn't like expensive perfumes or clothes
Mayadevi claims her son was too "simple" to commit the crime that he was arrested for. His 22-year-old brother Ganga Prasad says that despite such a huge following on TikTok, he never let fame get to his head. "He was always calm and friendly." According to his father Arjun Gupta, before his son became a TikTok star, he did not have a stable income. "But, when I asked him if he needed money, he never said 'yes'."
His school friend Imran Chaudhary, who now works with a marketing firm, says that though Gupta wasn't great at studies, he became popular as the "funny guy" at school. "He loved cracking jokes and making us laugh. While he loved teasing people, he would never get into fights." The two lost touch after Class X, but reconnected a few years ago. "He didn't want his family to stay in Diva, and mentioned that he was planning to purchase a room in Kurla soon."
According to Malik, who also runs a YouTube channel, Gupta had mentioned that he earned around R35,000 a month, for the content he created on social media. "He also got a lot of freebies from fans." Last month, he told him that the police had called him for questioning in a case. "At the time, I was in Saudi Arabia. I asked him if he had done something wrong, but he was confident he hadn't. I told him to go and meet the cops, and even asked my staffer, Khalfan, to assist him," he said, adding, "If the cops had his number and had been tracking him for a year, why didn't they arrest him earlier? Abhimanyu always posted his live locations for his fans on social media. Why did they wait this long?"
Also Read: Why should girls have all the fun?
Not the first crime
The police, however, says that Gupta is a habitual offender. Before he was arrested for the theft in Juhu, he had five theft cases registered against him — one at Vinoba Bhave Nagar police station in 2011, two cases in Rabale, Navi Mumbai in 2014, and one each at Marine Drive and Ghatkopar police stations in 2015. But, neither his family or friends seem to be aware of these cases.
The Juhu Police got their breakthrough in the case, when they managed to trace the stolen smartphone to a woman, who claimed she had got it as a gift from her boyfriend. After questioning her boyfriend, the police learnt that he had bought it from Gupta. Khalfan Shaikh, a friend, says that when the police had called Gupta for questioning, he had told them that he had bought the phone from Chor Bazaar in April last year, and sold it to someone, a few months later.
However, the police says that he had admitted to his crime during questioning. "He said that he had sold the stolen gold to Sreyansh Jewellery in Kurla. The owner of the jewellery shop, Vinod Jain, also confirmed the development. Gupta had told Jain he needed the money for his wife's health treatment." Speaking to mid-day, a spokseperson from TikTok said that it has removed over six million videos that have violated its guidelines. "At TikTok, maintaining a safe and positive in-app environment is our priority."
No. of theft cases registered against him since 2011
Also Read: Here's why Tik Tok users cry for attention
Sign up for all the latest news, top galleries and trending videos from Mid-day.comSubscribe
Fishermen rescue 20 foot-long whale shark from net