In his soon-to-be-released autobiography, Khullam Khulla, actor Rishi Kapoor opens up about meeting with one of India’s most-wanted men, Dawood Ibrahim, on two occasions in Dubai.
He wrote: “Along with the good, fame has also brought me in contact with people of dubious character. One of them was Dawood Ibrahim. The year was 1988. I had landed in Dubai with my closest friend, Bittu Anand, for an Asha Bhosle-RD Burman night. Dawood always had a man at the airport to keep him posted on VIP movement. When I was leaving the airport, a stranger walked up to me and handed me a phone. He said, ‘Dawood sa’ab baat karenge (Dawood sa’ab would like to talk to you).’ Obviously, this was before the 1993 blasts in Mumbai and I didn’t think of Dawood as a fugitive on the run. He wasn’t an enemy of the state yet. Or, at least, that was the impression I had. Dawood welcomed me and said, ‘If there is anything you need, just let me know.’ He also invited me to his house. I was taken aback.”
“Later, I was introduced to a fair, pudgy guy who looked British. This was Baba, the don’s right-hand man. He said to me, ‘Dawood sa’ab wishes to have tea with you.’ I didn’t see any harm in that and accepted the invitation. That evening, Bittu and I were picked up from our hotel in a gleaming Rolls Royce. While we were being driven to his home, a conversation went on around us, in Kutchi. I don’t understand Kutchi but my friend did, and he realized that we were being driven around in circles, so we wouldn’t know the exact location of his house. Dawood, immaculately dressed in an Italian ensemble that wasn’t exactly a suit, greeted us warmly and apologetically explained, ‘I called you to tea because I don’t drink or serve alcohol.’ So, we had a tea-and-biscuits session for four hours.” he added.
“He spoke of a number of things, including some of his criminal activities for which he had no regrets. ‘I have carried out petty thefts but I have never killed anyone, though I have got someone killed,’ he revealed. He claimed to have had someone shot in a Mumbai court for lying. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but it was about someone going against Allah’s word and so they had to do it. He claimed, ‘I was Allah’s messenger, so we shot him through his tongue and then through his brain.’ Director Rahul Rawail later used this real-life incident as the basis of a courtroom murder scene in his film Arjun (1985).”
“Dawood also told me he’d loved me in the film Tawaif because my name in it was Dawood. Dawood was pleased that through the film I had (unwittingly) glorified his name. Years later, in Nikhil Advani’s D-Day, I once again played Dawood on screen. Dawood spoke of his fondness for my father, my uncles, Dilip Kumar, Mehmood, Mukri and other actors. I remember feeling rather fearful when I first arrived there, but as the evening progressed my anxiety melted away and I relaxed, and we shared innumerable cups of tea over four hours. He asked me again if I needed anything. His exact words were, ‘If you need anything at all, any money, anything, just feel free to ask me.’ I thanked him and said that we were well taken care of.”
“I met Dawood only once after that, in Dubai. I love buying shoes and I was with Neetu at a sprawling Lebanese store called Red Shoe Company. Dawood was there too. He had a mobile phone in his hand and was surrounded by eight or ten bodyguards. This time too he said, ‘Let me buy you whatever you want.’ I politely declined and said, ‘I appreciate your gesture but I’d like to do my own shopping.’ He gave me his mobile number, but I couldn’t offer one in return because this was in 1989 when we didn’t have mobile phones in India. Finally Dawood said, ‘I am a fugitive because I will not get justice in India. There are a lot of people there who are against me. There are also many in India I have bought. I pay several politicians who are in my pocket.’ I said to him, ‘Dawood, please leave me out of all this, yaar. I am an actor and I really don’t wish to get involved.’ He understood. He was always extremely nice to me and showed me a lot of warmth. But everything changed soon after. I don’t know what made him go after my country the way he did. I have had no interaction with him at all after that chance meeting at the shoe shop. But there have been some more encounters with members of his family. I made a film called Shreemaan Aashique which had music composed by Nadeem-Shravan and lyrics by Noora, Dawood’s brother, who had a flair for writing. I heard that Dawood’s cronies would wake Nadeem up at 2am. and say, ‘Noora wants to speak to you.”
Rishi Kapoor’s memoir Khullam Khulla, published by Harper Collins, will be launched in Delhi on January 17.