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Pirates of Bollywood – Piracy, Copyrights, Legal Thriller (Novel) – Episode 16

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Episode 16


Authored by Dr. Kalyan C. Kankanala


The heavy raindrops, swayed by the strong northeasterly wind, pelted the huge glass window overlooking the Arabian Sea. Standing still on the other side of the glass, lost in thought, Shan stared at the white blanket of water. He was alone, almost inconspicuous, in his expansive and largely empty office at Juhu. His white attire topped by his silver hair and diminutive frame, gave him the appearance of a dead spirit portrayed in Bollywood movies.

The rainy evening reminded Shan of his first night in Mumbai, then Bombay, at the Victoria Terminus, the main train station of the city. After running away from his home on the Indo-Pak border to Jaipur, he boarded a passenger train to the city of dreams, aspiring for a career in the film industry as a writer. Apart from the script he wrote, a small bag of clothes, and a paltry sum of money that made a significant portion of his father’s life earnings, he carried with him a postcard from his childhood friend, who lived in the city and had agreed to put him up. It took his train three long days to reach Bombay, and Shan survived the journey valiantly, keeping his belongings safe from prying eyes and moving from seat to seat across the train, nomad like. Once he got off the train, Shan searched for a familiar face, but found none. He searched every inch of the railway station and waited for an hour gazing expectantly at the entrance, hoping to find his friend in the sea of people coming in. His friend did not show up, but a heavy rain did, shepherding Shan to the crowded waiting room for shelter. Cold and hungry, he sat there for two long days waiting for the rain to cease. When it finally stopped, Shan realized to his dismay that his friend’s letter was lost and he had nowhere to go.

Hopeless and dejected, Shan sat for several hours on a stone bench considering his options, or the lack thereof. Cursing his friend aloud, and crying until he ran out of tears did not help his miserable state; infact, it aggravated it. He wondered if he should take a train and go back home, but his helpless father, his own fragile self esteem, and most importantly, the inherited debt dissuaded him from taking that step.  There was too much at stake for him to turn around. Determined to give his aspirations a shot, Shan stood up, picked his bag and slowly walked into the open of arms of the city that was known to work its magic on ordinary people and take them to giddying heights.

That was the first and the last time he ever saw the railway station. Though he never got the opportunity to write for films, the doors that opened for him made up for everything he lost in the bargain. Within a week of his arrival in Bombay, and much before he went through the toil of finding a listening ear to pitch his script, the life-changing incident occurred. At a dormitory, his first shelter in Mumbai, Shan met an old man, who was intricately linked with the world of entertainment, and was looking for a young, dynamic pair of hands to further his cause.  After learning about Shan’s plight, “Join me, and I will solve your money problems in a few months,” the old man assured. Shan was convinced, and was in the man’s tiny shed next morning, making copies of music on tape, using the unsophisticated, yet highly effective machine, the old man claimed to have invented. Using his business acumen, Shan helped the old man expand his business network from the suburbs to different developed and developing landscapes of the country. Toiling day and night, they produced tons of inexpensive counterfeit cassettes of Hindi and regional film songs that flooded the market. However controverted and illegal their actions were, they believed in the cause, which was to take music to both the rich and the poor at an affordable price, and of course, fill their pockets. The profit that followed, in the old man’s words, was just a side effect of their good deeds. Shan did not complain. The logic worked for him and his bank balance.

Thanks to Shan’s unlimited energy, restless spirit and astonishing luck, their business reached humungous proportions within just one year. Shan paid off his parents’ debt and moved them to Bombay, where they lived in a more than comfortable settlement. But his good beginning did not last long as the arm of the mafia and the police caught up with his success. Squeezed between mafia factions and cops, Shan and the old man struggled to keep their lives and the business alive. After many nights in police stations and the cold-blooded murder of his old partner, Shan, devastated and petrified, decided on the impending and the inevitable decision to give up the counterfeit business and start afresh.

With the aim of capitalizing on the distribution network he had built, Shan founded a record label and production house, Tunes, in the mid 90s. He invested large amounts of money to acquire movie and music rights of many blockbuster movies at irresistible prices. Very soon, Shan also produced his own movies and music, which met with tremendous success. Under the leadership of Shan, Tunes took just 10 years to reach the top. Soon, his shady background too had been rewritten. Owing to his success and influence in the industry, Shan was soon referred to as the godfather of Bollywood.

As of that moment, Tunes owned more than 40 percent of all the content in Bollywood, and Shan emerged as the most powerful person in the industry. Through conscious efforts, Shan managed to wipe out his past and gained the reputation of being a fair and large-hearted individual, who loved and lived in creativity. Every person in the industry, from the lead actor to the light boy, considered it a privilege to work with Shan, and an invitation from him was considered to be a calling from the god of films.

Shan was responsible for making stars out of many ordinary men, including the present superstar, Raj Khanna, referred to by many as Baadshah of Bollywood, after his first super hit film Baadshah produced by Tunes. Shan’s mind was hovering over thoughts of Raj, when his phone buzzed. In a very strange coincidence, Raj was on the line. “Shan, I was informed that our agreement for the new movie will not be on the lines of the old one,” he said. “Tell me I got this wrong.”

Raj was one of the few people in the industry, who addressed Shan by his name. “Raj, you got it right. We have modified our policies,” Shan responded, stern as always. He would have communicated this in person, but for Raj’s growing arrogance and dipping respect for the man who had made him a star. “I hope this will have no impact on our prior agreements, Shan.”

“I am afraid it might, Raj. We will speak later. I am getting into a meeting now.” The prized, antique clock struck 11 as soon as Shan ended the call without waiting for a response. Shan quickly got Raj out of his mind; there were more important things at hand. It was time to get Project Pi rolling.

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Copyright, Dr. Kalyan C. Kankanala.

May be distributed with prior permission of the author.

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