As the investigation into Malayalam actor Dileep’s role in the rape of an actress and an attempt on the life of a Police Inspector progresses, a new name has cropped up-Gulshan. It is said that Gulshan controls the Gulf market of Malayalam movies, and hence the Malayalam film industry. Film director S Balachandrakumar has told the Police that Dileep is involved in the activities of Gulshan, and Gulshan is none other than Ahmad Golchin. Who is Golchin? How is he connected to Dawood Ibrahim?
Golchin and the D-Company
The leading US thinktank, Rand Corporation, in a report in 2009 had confirmed that Dawood Ibrahim was siphoning off millions of dollars earned from film piracy., to terrorist operations. The moment a film is released in Mumbai, the D company makes camera prints and sends them to Karachi or Kuala Lumpur where millions of DVDs are made and marketed across the world. But after the Mumbai-based Valuable Group introduced satellite transmission of films directly to cinema halls, it has become difficult for the gang to make camera prints as each cinema hall has a secret identity number encrypted into the movie. To avoid this, gang members have established links with small-time theatres in Gujarat where the camera prints are taken at the first show of any new film.
The gang also receives advance prints of the films financed by it through front companies.
Dawood is India’s godfather of godfathers who runs criminal gangs from Bangkok to Dubai. His gang syndicate, called D-Company, engages in strong-arm protection, drug trafficking, extortion and murder-for-hire, the Rand report says. It says that film piracy can be more paying than drug trafficking. The report says a pirated DVD made in Malaysia for 70 cents is marked up more than 1,000% and sold in London for about $9. The profit margin is more than three times higher than the markup for Iranian heroin and higher than the profit from Columbian cocaine.
Identifying Al-Mansoor and Sadaf brands belonging to Dawood, the report says he has acquired extraordinary market power in the distribution of pirated films throughout the region. The report says the D-Company has got control of Sadaf Trading Company based in Karachi and thus allowing it to manage distribution networks in Pakistan and also acquiring the infrastructure to manufacture pirate VHS tapes and VCDs for sale.
There is a reference to Ahmad Golchin in the book, Film Piracy, Organized Crime, and Terrorism by Gregory F Treverton (Page 133):
“The narrative of Al-Manzur’s growth is well known to credible police officers who have studied D-Company. The first managers of Al-Manzoor were close associates of Chota Shakeel. Most notable was M Khatri, who moved from Chota Shakeel’s video library in Central Mumbai to Open the home- video operations of Al-Manzoor in Dubai. The theatrical operations were started by Ahmad Golchin and two other partners. Together, this cadre moved to dominate not only Pakistan but the entire region. As the Gulf territories became increasingly profitable, Al-Manzoor’s first-mover advantage in Dubai enabled it to accomplish this. Through intimidation and by asserting the plain fact of its monopoly, Al-Manzoor became an essential part of any film’s distribution abroad, and it moved forcefully to ensure that few Indian distribution companies ever gained a significant presence beyond their borders”.
The book reveals that in later years, D-Company rival/enemy Chota Rajan used his growing influence in Bollywood, along with direct threats, to pressure Al-Manzoor’s owners to split the company. Rajan’s lieutenant, Vicky Malhotra was the key interlocutor for Rajan in Bollywood. Through Rajan’s and Malhotra’s influence, the book records, “Golchin and his partners formed the Gulf Films Company, which quickly legitimized its business practices and moved away from organized crime”.
Thus, Ahmad Golchin has a dubious past and an association with D-Company.
Godfather of UAE cinemas
But today Golchin is considered the ‘Godfather of UAE cinemas’ and he told Gulf News last year: “My life story is so much more than any James Bond novel”. He is the founder and CEO of the Phars Film Group, the biggest cinema distribution company in the region.
Golchin has worn many hats in his lifetime, some more nefarious than others, but it’s his legacy laid down in the UAE over the past 57 years that has changed the landscape of theatrical entertainment in the country. “When I landed in Dubai in 1964, there was one cinema located in Al Nasser Square. It would cost Rs2 to get a ticket, with films playing only at night-time.”
The cinema he describes is a far cry from the multiplexes peppered across the UAE today, some of which have been founded by none other than Golchin himself.
Born in 1942, Golchin grew up in Iran at a time when the Second World War was raging between the Allied Forces and the Axis of Evil. As the son of his father’s third wife, Golchin didn’t have much going for him in those early years, at least not much more than his dreams.
“My father was a religious man and cinema was forbidden,” recalls the 80-year-old. “My father divorced my mother when I was five years old and I tried to survive on my own in any way possible.”
At the age of nine, a bad fall saw Golchin lose his vision in one eye, but the handicap still didn’t keep the enterprising young boy from finding a way to make an extra buck. “I was a wild boy, trying to survive in any way possible. I would go door-to-door, find books people weren’t reading, and sell them for some quick money. That money would pay for my ticket at the cinema every night.”
The first film Golchin ever saw on the big screen was ‘Moby Dick’ (1956), starring the dashing Gregory Peck in the film adaptation of the Herman Melville novel. Golchin sold newspapers, did cutting, whatever he could to make enough money to live the adventures on screen.
It was during this time that publishing became an avenue. He had gotten hold of a book ‘American Grenade’ and the cover was so fascinating that he decided to get it translated into Farsi and changed the name to ‘Six Steps to Death’. The book was a sensation.
With his business taking off, the entrepreneur spent a content few years reaping his money through publishing close to 140 books while using the lack of copyright in his favour. However, his luck soon ran out when a few books he published drew the attention of some dangerous people. Fearing for his life, Golchin fled Iran in 1964, using the help of some local pirates to ferry him to the UAE.
The journey to Dubai
He wasn’t alone in this perilous journey, travelling with 6-7 people who had set out to plan their own futures in the UAE. Golchin landed in Dubai at 7 pm the next day with a suitcase in hand and found a room at a guesthouse in Al Nasr Square. Tucked away in his luggage were his hard-earned money, some personal belongings and a 35mm Mexican film dubbed in Persian, ‘Fight to Death’.
The next morning when he opened his suitcase, his money was gone, along with his passport. Golchin wasn’t sure he could recover from this. The owner of the guesthouse sent him to a coffee shop where he told him to seek out a man who could help him write a letter and request a new passport.
Using the cutting skills he had picked up in his childhood, Golchin made religious wall art to make ends meet, hoping for his passport to arrive soon and leave for the US or the UK by any means possible. His plans for his next voyage though were soon thwarted by the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the former ruler of Dubai.
The next morning, he strolled through the textile shops, stopping here and there, asking about business and stopped in one to ask for a cup of tea. The Ruler of Dubai was there, asking for tea. Golchin knew he was in the right place.
Golchin realised early on that there was a thirst for entertainment here in the UAE. With no newspapers printed locally, televisions scarce, cinemas became the one indulgence that people were willing to spend their savings on and the enterprising mind was ready with a film that had travelled with him across the Hormuz Strait. Having decided to stay back in the UAE, Golchin took stock of the cinemas that were available and used his contacts in Bahrain — which he had built during his publishing days — and became the distributor of films in the UAE. It wasn’t long before his company Phars Films took root in 1967.
In 1970, Golchin’s business had spread enough for him to head to Cannes and Milan to film sellers directly, securing enough investment a year later to establish a lucrative film distribution business with international markets. Golchin soon became involved in the opening of Deira Cinema, the UAE’s first air-conditioned theatre that was inaugurated by Sheikh Rashid himself.
In 1989, Golchin soon took on a partner in Salim Ramia and they established Gulf Films to distribute and market Hollywood and international movies across Middle-East and North Africa. By 2000, as the popularity of multiplexes grew, Golchin’s theatres opened up at most of the major malls in the UAE at that time.
Now, is Golchin really in trade with Dileep?
It is a known fact that Dileep has some sort of controlling stake in the Malayalam film industry. Reporter TV has claimed that NIA is going to step in to investigate the Golchin-Dileep connection. It is said that Sooraj, Dileep’s sister’s husband, has been with the Phars Films of Golchin, during his Dubai days.