|HOME | NEWS | COLUMNISTS | PRITISH NANDY|
September 14, 2000
Is Taurani guilty?
I knew Gulshan Kumar. Not too well perhaps but I knew him and liked him. I liked him because he refashioned the entire music industry in India. It was because of his spirit of enterprise that what was once a dead and desultory business came alive almost magically.
People say he was a pirate. Possibly he was. But, at the same time, he was one of the highest tax payers in the land and proud to be so. That by itself makes him very different from all those other guys who wear an eyepatch and swig a bottle of rum.
What also made Gulshan Kumar very different from others in the music business was that even though he made huge money off his consumers, he did not treat them like dirt. He respected them and, to make music easily affordable, he systematically drove down prices even as he cornered his rivals and grew the market exponentially. Till he came along, these companies were virtually looting the consumer by charging absurdly high prices for music cassettes. He made them much, much cheaper and reached music to millions of homes all over.
He may have made some money through cover versions and piracy. But what is more important is that he benefited listeners, expanded the market and created a galaxy of new stars. He broke, in that sense, the existing monopolies and drove hard and fiercely a sloth, decadent, exploitative market to make it boom. Cover versions, the subject of so much controversy, so many court cases, are now accepted as legit in the music business. But, like all swashbuckling pioneers, Gulshan Kumar got a bad name for doing it first.
Were it not for him, the music scene in India would have remained dull, dreary, brain dead. Unfortunately, because of his humble beginnings as a juicewallah, he got blackwashed by his envious rivals and painted as a gory underworld don. The reality is that he was a great innovator, a man somewhat ahead of his times and hence tainted by prejudice and badnaami.
He was the first to pay big money to artistes. He was the first to pay huge taxes to the government. He was the first to make music available to everyone everywhere at such a low price. That alone should endear him in music history.
Ramesh Taurani, the man accused of conspiring to murder him, is also a fine music entrepreneur. He came up during the Gulshan Kumar years and, like other music company owners, did not exactly admire the tactics of T-Series. No one did. They all gunned for Gulshan Kumar because, it is alleged, he made hundreds of crores from selling music he did not own. Given half a chance, any one of the rivals would have loved to shut down T-Series. For it controlled not just a huge share of the visible market but also its dark underbelly.
But when Gulshan Kumar was murdered, it was Taurani and Nadeem Saifi who were left holding the can. Nadeem because he was an arrogant and a brash loudmouth who went public with his threats against Gulshan Kumar who, he claimed, had deliberately under-promoted his personal music album to cut him down to size. Taurani, because he was the biggest rival to T-Series and had, reportedly, paid a huge sum of cash as extortion money to the underworld which (unluckily for him) was redirected to fund the murder. Or so the police claim.
However, the actual evidence against both Nadeem and Taurani appears too slender for anyone to conclude definitively that they had conspired to kill Gulshan Kumar. The case is before the courts and, till the honourable judges decide, we cannot (in all fairness) call them criminals. They are merely the accused.
While Nadeem has fled to London from where he is trying to fight back extradition proceedings, Taurani has chosen to stay on in Mumbai and establish his innocence through the legal process. Ever since he came out of remand, he has quietly and bravely continued with his business as if nothing had happened. In fact, he has managed to successfully grow Tips into one of India's top music companies.
Last week Tips announced it was going public. Unleashing a huge media debate on whether SEBI, the regulatory authority, should allow companies with promoters who have criminal records to raise public money. SEBI's answer was simple: How can we prevent any one from going public as long as they make full disclosures in their offer document? Which is exactly what Tips did. PILs have also been filed to stop the issue.
But the question is: Are we not prejudging Taurani? Can we really call him a criminal till the courts say he is one? After all, the case is still being heard and until the courts actually judge him guilty, it is unfair to label him a criminal. Paying money to an extortionist to save your own life is not the same as being an accessory to murder.
We all know how some sections of the police work in India. Many innocent people have spent long years in jail only to be eventually freed because the cases against them were weak and unjust. While many guilty men and women walk the streets of our cities because they enjoy the immunities provided by their power and position. To, therefore, describe Ramesh Taurani as a murderer and try to punish him for a crime he may or may not be responsible for till the courts pass an actual judgment is unjust, improper and somewhat irresponsible.
He must be allowed to run his business and live his life as a respected member of our civil society until and unless the courts find him guilty. Till then, we must accept him as innocent.
SINGLES | NEWSLINKS | BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | GIFT SHOP | HOTEL BOOKINGS
AIR/RAIL | WEATHER | MILLENNIUM | BROADBAND | E-CARDS | EDUCATION
HOMEPAGES | FREE EMAIL | CONTESTS | FEEDBACK