It is 25 years of Ashiqui and the film’s music was the first blockbuster hit for its composer Nadeem Akhtar Saifi of the Nadeem-Shravan duo. But soon after, his life turned upside down. In 1997, while on vacation in London, he was named a suspect in the murder of his former mentor and music mogul, Gulshan Kumar, by investigators who alleged he had paid a hitman to do the job. Arrest warrants were issued against him, his passport was revoked, and to avoid arrest, he stayed in England as his fight went up to the House of Lords, which upheld the UK Supreme Court’s decision against the extradition, and turned down the Indian government’s plea. Finally, in 2002, Nadeem was acquitted of all charges by a Mumbai sessions court. Now he is back doing films. Nabanita Sircar caught up with him in London, though he now spends most of his time in Dubai.
How has life changed since the case?
We used to read in history of pagan times when there was no law and everybody did what they wanted. This is exactly what happened in my case. It ruined my family life. I have been separated from my parents for the last 18 years and now they are old and frail, when they need me most.
Would you consider going back to India and working from there?
I am not afraid of going back. I am a man who can face anything—I have faced the law here, in an unknown country. India is my country. Now, it has been proved that whatever they did was a stitch-up.
“I was in the UK for over a month when news came of Gulshanji’s death. Me and Shravan were in tears. I had nothing to do with it.”
What is stopping you from going back to your country now?
At one time, my mother had put a kasam on me, saying, “Don’t come back, because you will not get justice. They did not care that you have done so much for the country in the field of music. So don’t try and come here even if I am on my deathbed.” Some people told me not to worry and to return to India, saying they will arrange everything. But I said, “What do you mean you will arrange everything?” The fact is I am here to fight for the truth not on the basis of any arrangement.
Why do think you were framed?
In the name of God, I can honestly tell you, the only reason that can be is that I was extremely famous and rich at a young age, very influential. So I don’t know, may be some people behind the scenes felt I was a threat.
I believe you have been close to the Thackeray family. Have you ever contacted them for any help?
I have been like a family member. Uddhav Thackeray is like an elder brother to me, I respect him very much. Uncle Thackeray was very close. Binda Bhai was like a brother. Sad that both of them have passed away. Even Raj Bhai is close to me but I would never want them to get involved in this because I want to fight on the basis of my truth.
What do you think actually happened to Gulshan Kumar?
I was in London when the news came of his death. I was here for about a month before that with my family. When I was told about the killing, I was in tears and I spoke to Shravan. We both were in tears. Little did I know that after a few days they would frame me for conspiring to kill Gulshanji. I had nothing to do with it.
You live between Dubai and London. What are you up to now?
“I am not afraid of going back.... But at one time, my mother had put a kasam on me, saying, ‘Don’t come back, you won’t get justice.’”
Now I am basically in the perfume business. I have a brand called Arabian Attars and I am soon launching my new worldwide brand called Just Sheesha. It’s the first time you will get all sheesha fragrances. I am in London now to negotiate with distributors.
I have just done a film for Ajay Shah and Jabbir Boxwala and Harry Gandhi. There is another film I am doing for Rahul Kapoor and I am in discussions with other producers.
Why do you think some still believe you are absconding?
I am not an absconder. I have faced justice and been exonerated. I have been given a clean chit by the courts. The concerned police officers were also criticised for the discrepancies, for their biased inquiries, which were not in the interest of justice. But there may be some people with vested interests who would want to fool people with rumours.