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Threats bite Bollywood

Chopra, Varma receive police protection

NEW DELHI — Just when Indian industryites thought it safe to go back into the Bollywood waters, the underworld sharks are back.

Yash Chopra and Ram Gopal Varma have reportedly received threatening calls demanding overseas right to their films “Veer-Zaara” and “Naach,” respectively.

“Veer-Zaara,” starring Shah Rukh Khan, has proved popular in India in another slow year, but “Naach” has failed to light up the box office.

Both movies, however, are in big demand in Indian communities abroad, the Times of India reported.

Quoting police sources, the paper said both directors had received threats from underworld heavies based in Dubai.

The report identified them as a breakaway group of a cell allegedly operated by Abu Salem, who is in prison in Portugal awaiting trial on a number of charges, including travelling on a false passport.

Salem in turn had allegedly split from Dawood Khan, now believed to be in Pakistan. Kahn is accused of netting millions by forcing producers to hand over distribution rights to their movies.

Following a crackdown by police and the emergence of more traditional methods of film financing, the underworld had faded from the Bollywood scene in the past year or so.

But now the fear is back.

Police have given protection to Chopra and Varma as “a temporary measure.” Neither could be contacted for comment.

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