Where Fact Meets Fiction: Raees Alam vs Abdul Latif
A look at where Raees Alam’s character meets the infamous Abdul Latif and where they disconnect.
Like with most films, Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Raees opens with a disclaimer. Apparently the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) had asked the makers to add a prominent plate in the opening credits stating that, “This film is a work of fiction. It does not disparage any person dead or alive.”
But the buzz around the character of Raees Alam being based on Gujarati gangster Abdul Latif refuses to go away. Take a quick look at the highlights of similarities between Abdul Latif and Raees Alam’s career graph:
- Bootlegger who rose to fame in the 80s
- Dominated the illicit liquor business by finishing off his rivals
- Transitioned into a mafia don
- Was seen as a messiah by people in his locality
- Had political connections
- Contested and won municipal elections from jail
- Was involved in receiving and storing a cache of arms and explosives from Dawood Ibrahim post the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition
- Speculated to have been a conduit for RDX smuggled into India before the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts
- Was arrested by the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) of Gujarat police
- Was shot dead by the police in Ahmedabad in an encounter
- Bootlegger who rose to fame in the 80s
- Dominates the illicit liquor business by finishing off his rivals
- Transitions into a mafia don
- Is seen as a messiah by people in his locality
- Has political connections
- Contests and wins state elections from jail
- Unknowingly becomes a conduit for the RDX smuggled into India before a series of blasts in a city
- Is arrested by the Gujarat police
- Is shot dead by the police in a fake encounter
That’s where the broad similarities between Abdul Latif and Raees Alam end. A closer look at Latif’s world of crime will tell you why it would have been difficult to totally base any character played by Shah Rukh Khan on the real life don.
Take a peek at what made Latif the biggest don ever in Gujarat:
Latif and the Rise of BJP in Gujarat
With this kind of notoriety, Latif is also known to have led to BJP’s rise to power in Gujarat in the 90s. An article in The Times of India, mentions how as a mafia don, Abdul Latif was the most hated name in Hindu households in the state in 1993.
Unlike the “secular” Raees, Latif had reportedly systematically gunned down all Hindu gangs which operated in Ahemdabad. Besides this, the gangster was also seen as Dawood’s man in Gujarat and an ISI agent.
From waiting on tables at gambling dens, to becoming a bootlegger and monopolising the illegal liquor business in Gujarat, to emerging as one of the state’s most feared gangsters - Latif’s underworld journey was allegedly protected because of his political connections, especially his proximity to the Congress party.
In the by-elections of 1993, BJP leader Haren Pandya apparently rode to victory because he promised his voters that he would take Latif head on. “When you go out to vote, don’t forget Latif,” was Pandya’s electoral plea. He won by over 45,000 votes.
This was enough motivation for the BJP to bring back Latif as a target when it contested the assembly elections in 1995 on its own for the first time. Latif’s name and his connection with Dawood and the Congress party was reportedly on every BJP leader’s election speech. BJP came to power winning 121 seats in 1995 and has ruled the state ever since.
And this could be largely because the party’s promise to its people about Latif wasn’t forgotten after the big victory. Latif was tracked down to Delhi via a complicated phone-tapping operation and arrested in 1995 itself, and the Gujarat CM, Keshubhai Patel was called a ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’ by his admirers and supporters.
Latif was also seen as a messiah, who provided jobs and justice to underprivileged Muslims in Ahemdabad who were ignored by the system. But it was also known that the man was highly communal in his operations - having engineered several riots and only employed Muslims in his criminal network.
In November 1997, two years after his arrest, Latif was shot dead by the Gujarat police for trying to escape in an alleged encounter. He was lodged in the Sabarmati Central Jail and was shot near the Naroda crossing, where he had been reportedly taken for an investigation.
It is highly unlikely that Shah Rukh Khan would have agreed to portray and glorify a character like Abdul Latif, but just as Vardarajan Mudaliar, Haji Mastan and Arun Gawli have inspired films, some aspects of the life of this don from Gujarat has added elements to the idea that became Raees.
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