Around 10.30 pm last Saturday, three men arrived on an Activa two-wheeler. The man sitting in the middle took out a .32 bore revolver and fired five rounds towards the Juhu bungalow of film producer Ali Morani. One bullet hit a tree while another pierced the window pane of the bungalow. Officers from the Crime Branch who are conducting parallel investigations said that producers Ali and Karim Morani, who have produced successful films like Chennai Express, Raja Hindustani and Damini were out of the country at the time of the incident.
After the firing, fugitive gangster Ravi Pujari sent an SMS to Morani on his cellphone, allegedly threatening him with dire consequences. Morani reported the incident to police on Sunday. Mumbai Police Crime Branch officers on Tuesday detained two suspected aides of Pujari who are believed to have fired the shots.
While the Mumbai Police maintains that the local networks of underworld gangs have long been neutralised in the city, and that gangland activity has been at a low in recent years, former Chhota Rajan lieutenant Pujari has been a thorn in the flesh over the past decade. His name continues to crop up in connection with extortion calls and threats delivered to prominent Bollywood personalities, businessmen and lawyers.
Pujari, who hails from Udipi district of Karnataka, indulged in petty crimes before moving to Mumbai for better prospects. Here, he came in contact with the Chhota Rajan gang through Rajan henchman Shrikant Malvankar alias Shrikant Mama. In 1996, he fled to Dubai with Rajan and Guru Satam. He parted ways and floated his own gang shortly after helping Rajan escape an audacious attempt on his life in Bangkok in 2000 by Chhota Shakeel aides.
In the past, Pujari, who positions himself as a ‘Hindu Don’, has also grabbed headlines by targeting lawyers, such as Majid Memon in 2005 and more recently M S Khan, who were representing Muslim accused in terror attack cases. Khan was representing Indian Mujahideen member Yasin Bhatkal.
Prior to Saturday’s firing, Pujari was under the scanner during the acrimonious falling-out between actor Preity Zinta and Ness Wadi in June. Industrialist Nusli Wadia’s office in Worli received a total of five calls, allegedly from Pujari. While Pujari asked to speak to Wadia in the earlier calls, in the last two calls he told the Wadia’s assistants that he should stay away from the Preity-Ness matter. Pujari