Synopsis: He ran from a life of drugs and bullets.
Now, he runs to shatter records.
Rahul Jadhav took the name ‘Bhiku’ after a character from the 1998 cult classic Satya – a gangster who was everything Rahul once wanted to be. Capturing his don’s attention as a tech-literate criminal, running his extortion ring over Skype, Rahul found himself shouting threats down the barrel of his gun and became one of the most wanted gangsters of his time.
After his arrest in 2007, the extortionist and hitman was left a shadow of his former self, ravaged by alcoholism and drug abuse – which twisted his mind into a near schizophrenic state. That was only part of his journey.
Today, the gunrunner is an ultra-marathoner who has covered nearly 10,000 kilometres – including a 2019 run from Gateway of India to India Gate – and aims to shatter the national stadium run record.
Written by award-winning journalist Puja Changoiwala, this is the extraordinary story of a hitman who became a de-addiction counselor and outran his demons, leaving them far behind in the murky shadows of gangland.
One of the first things that come to mind when I recall the 1998 crime blockbuster Satya is Manoj Bajpayee standing on a cliff overlooking the sea. His character shouts, “Mumbai ka baap kaun? Bhikhu Mhatre.” (Who’s the boss of Mumbai? Bhikhu Mhatre). Bhikhu, of course, is the name of his gangster character.
What I didn’t know is that there was a young, real-life gangster in 1998, who took on the “Bhikhu Mhatre” moniker for himself. Rahul Ramakant Jadhav terrorised Dombivli in the late 90s-early aughts with his shootings and extortion calls. Award-winning crime journalist Puja Changoiwala charts the life of the wannabe don of Mumbai from his childhood to present day.
The USP of this book is the feel-good finish that Rahul’s story has. Almost every classical gangster story – fact or fiction – ends with either the anti-hero riding into the sunset or going out, glorified, in a hail of bullets. Not so here. Having run from authorities, his family and himself for ages, Rahul Jadhav found peace in running marathons and conducting de-addiction counselling. It is nothing if not an utterly remarkable story.
There are familiar beats in the book, themes and tropes one sees across the genre, both in fiction and nonfiction. If you’re a crime/gangster genre aficionado, you’d find much of the early portions of the book familiar to you. But this is also a story steeped in its time period. The late-90s heralded the era of the Internet. Most gangs and almost all police departments hadn’t jumped on the bandwagon. As the book tells us, Rahul Jadhav, eager to please his bhai and faithful to the core, found that his dexterity with computers and the Net gave him significant early-mover advantage. These passages are some of the most exciting in the book.
The book’s opening section is another that grabs you instantly. Going through Rahul’s childhood, we are told of an incident so sudden and shocking that it’s difficult to imagine anyone suffering that to come out mentally unscathed.
The chronological, third-person narrator order of the book is helpful in taking us through Rahul’s life and mind. The narration is crisp and allows us to feel close to the action, finding guilty joy even in our protagonist’s illegal escapades. And it also takes us through his pigheaded, arrogant ideas of not giving up crime and addiction, because of a presumed belief, time and again, that he was going to strike it rich again.
A special mention of the depiction of alcohol addiction. The author’s stark portrayal of Rahul’s physical condition under addiction is as dreary as any I’ve ever come across. Although his crime history gets the major focus during his “working” days, we still get to see how alcohol dependency ravaged his body. It becomes more harrowing once he takes up rehab.
One of the things I was confounded by is the book’s timeline. I came across multiple instances of it being messed up. Although most of these instances don’t have a major bearing on the story itself, they were irritants in the book’s comfortable flow. Plus, I’d have liked some more pages to have been dedicated to Rahul’s long-distance running days.
I kept thinking at various points while reading it that this book would make a great adaptation, maybe as a web series more than a film. The narrative arc of rise, fall and redemption is there, with some astounding story about Rahul’s tech-savviness and desire to learn stuff even when behind bars. Looking forward to a production house picking up the rights to the book.
All said, Gangster On The Run is a remarkable, feel-good story about the power of dedication and determination. It’s proof that if we decide to take charge, it’s never too late to make a course correction in life.
Verdict: Gangster On The Run is an uplifting portrayal of one man’s fall and redemption.
Genre: True-crime, Nonfiction, Gangster.
Reviewed as part of the Blogchatter Book Review Program. Click here to know all about it.
You can order the book from Amazon here.
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Rahul Jadhav image courtesy.
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