Well, anybody who is familiar with the names like Ganesh Gaitonde, Isa, Sartaj Singh, Kukoo and Tripathi would relate to religion and Bombay in a different context!
And this dialogue by Ganesh Gaitonde is gonna stay etched for quite some time now! 😀
English translation: ‘Do you believe in God? God doesn’t gives a f**k’
Netflix’s Indian Original Series Sacred Games, which was premiered on the streaming platform on the 6th of July, gave the nation a reason to believe in Indian TV content.The adaption of the 2006 Vikram Chandra novel of the same, which has been directed by Vikramaditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap, had Saif Ali Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui moving away from the big screen and embracing the digital space.
We, at Trell, have binge-watched the shit out of Sacred Games and for days we couldn’t stop discussing how complicated Sartaj Singh has been portrayed battling his demons and the issues within. Or, how Gaitonde becomes THE Ganesh Gaitonde from the time he commits his very first murder, and how he’s portrayed as a money-minded gangster whose messed-up childhood made him detached from any religious sentiments, ages ago, and also made him realize how conveniently it can be used to manipulate the world. A story about the old Bombay when gangsters, politicians and film stars lived together ( the coexistence that exists till date ), a time when Ganesh Gaitonde was one of the biggest gangster in Bombay. For all intents and purposes, he has become the embodiment of the Mumbai overlord.
A girl like me who would only watch rom-coms with coffee in a wineglass, I found myself caught in this web of power, money, politics, God and gunfire. And this made me dig deeper into some of the crazy mafia lives from around Bombay! I never thought I would be fascinated by the likes of them!
Mumbai is the land of dreams and wish fulfillment. Since times immemorial, we have come across Bombay or Mumbai as a city that never sleeps. However, no matter how beautiful and wish-fulfilling the city is, it is also regarded as the centre point of India’s underworld. The fictional mafia team and the Dons whom we encounter quite often in the Hindi films are indeed a part of the real Bombay.
The Gangster culture started in the second half of the last century and ever since then, there have been various hooligans adding up to this list; they have completely changed the fabric of the mobster world.
When you think of India and its criminal underworld, you automatically think of men like Dawood and Chhota Shakeel, but behind every great(?) man is a woman, and around here, it’s no different. Some of these gangster women might not have been in the spotlight, but that’s just more proof of how professional and precise they were.
From bootlegging liquor to pulling off daring heists, here are some women from India who have ruled the underworld, in one way or another.
Let’s take a look into the world of Mum-bhaiii/ben! 😀
- Rubina Siraj Sayyed – Notoriously referred to as moti (fat) girlfriend of Chota Shakeel.
A 39-year old housewife, a hardened criminal, and once a renowned beautician AKA HEROINE from Nagpada used to supply food, arms, and money to the members of the Chota Shakeel gang who were behind bars. She used her charm and her several connections to win favour with the right people and get in where nobody else could. She is now serving her time at the Byculla prison.
2. Karim Lala – The grand old Daddy of Mumbai’s criminal underbelly
Born as Abdul Karim Sher Khan in Kunar province of Afghanistan, Karim Lala was the self-proclaimed ‘don of Mumbai’ in India. He is recognized as the founder of the major organised criminal gang in the Mumbai area in the 1950s.
In the later half the last century, major parts of Mumbai and especially the Mumbai docks, were majorly controlled by three people – Karim Lala, Haji Mastan and Varadarajan Mudailar. Karim Lala and his men were involved in smuggling jewellery, gambling, selling hashish and so on. He died on 19 February 2001 at the age of 90.
- Shashikala Ramesh Patankar – The Meow Meow Lady
To those who know Shashikala, that comes as no surprise. Mumbai’s narcotics officers call her the “the city’s largest meow-meow peddler”. Meow-meow is the street name of mephedrone, one of the most popular party drugs in the market.
It’s now over 30 years that Shashikala has allegedly been in the drug trade. She sold Mephedrone – a party drug said to be a cross between cocaine and ecstasy which is popularly known as Meow Meow. In all this time that police of both Mumbai and Satara have been waiting for her to trip, she has been arrested just once, in 2001. She was soon released on bail.
She was again arrested in April 2015 when she was fifty years old. Though she lived in a slum but properties worth 100 crores was found in her name. Patankar used a travel agency to cover up her drug trade. She would buy drugs, adulterate them, and return them to the dealers she brought them before tipping the police off – a tactic that helped her eliminate her competition and establish a monopoly. Her gang would then operate freely.
Siddhart Nagar Slum, Worli, BombayThe Siddharth Nagar slum in Worli. It’s from atop a hillock here that she allegedly ran her drug network for 30 years.
4. Arun Gawli
Before Arun Gulab Ahir alias Arun Gawli became involved in criminal activities, he was in his family business of supplying milk in and around Dagdi chawl at Byculla in central Mumbai. In the 1980s, he joined gangster Rama Naik and offered protection to Dawood Ibrahim’s consignments. He later fell out with Ibrahim over the latter’s killing of Naik by the police.
Gawli floated his own political party and became an MLA, but his run came into an end with the murder of a Shiv Sena corporator in 2007. Gawli was convicted of the crime in 2012 and is serving a life sentence.
The gang is based at Dagdi Chawl in Byculla, Mumbai.
He started his criminal activities there and used the rooms there for keeping kidnapped persons, torturing them, extorting money from them and murdering them. The police raided the premises several times and finally broke his operations. He has been arrested several times for criminal activities and detained for long periods during the trial. However, he could not be convicted in most of the cases as witnesses would not depose against him for fear. He was finally convicted for the murder of Shiv Sena leader Kamalakar Jamsandekar by a court in August 2012. Gawli and eleven others were found guilty of Jamsandekar’s murder.
5. Bela Aunty – The illicit liquor baroness
Not much is known about this gangster but in the 70s, Bela Aunty ran one of the biggest liquor barons in Mumbai’s Dharavi.
She’s so powerful that even the biggest dons of Mumbai used to be scared of her. Bela paid massive bribes to several officers, allowing numerous truckloads of illegal liquor to come through and swarm the black market.
Vardhabhai, the then underworld don, could not stop her from selling liquor in his heartland of Dharavi.
- Manya Surve – the first desperado in the Bombay gangland.
Manohar Arjun Surve, popularly known as Manya Surve, was one of the dons who made an impact in the Mumbai underworld. Being a Hindu, he was denied acceptance in the underworld. Enraged, he decided to form his own gang. The first educated Hindu gangster, who hailed from an area called Agar Bazaar in Dadar got implicated in a murder that he did not commit and was sentenced to life in Yerwada Jail.
He had challenged the number one Don of Mumbai Dawood Ibrahim. Now there was direct Fight between Dawood and Manya. Manya Surve’s death in 1982 during an encounter with the Maharashtra police became known as the city’s first recorded encounter killing.
The police had many options to stop these gang wars. They decided for their first ever Encounter in history, and it was Manya Surve on their list. Dawood wanted to eliminate Manya and it is believed that he used his money, power and connections to convince Mumbai police that encounter of Manya is the best way to stop the criminal activity from Mumbai. One of the biggest joke of his encounter.
Beyond religious violence, the philosophical underpinnings of Sacred Games, both the novel and show, are rooted in Hindu tropes, most obviously the concepts of predestination, dharma and eternal return. The list of some of the renowned underworld dons that reigned in Bombay continues.
I haven’t mentioned all of them here, but their influence, and impact on the society still send chills down the spine!
The romance between Bombay and the Underworld is insatiable.
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