A few pages into S Hussain Zaidi's Dongri to Dubai – Six Decades of Mumbai Mafia – and you know this isn't a frothy work, like several Bollywood potboilers trying to decode the gang war for the viewers.
This depiction of the mafia in mainstream cinema becomes our talking point with the senior crime journalist who was in the city for an event.
Zaidi's pithy style of writing also dictated his choice of words, “Bollywood is the PR machinery of the underworld. It tries to glorify and gives their protagonists a heroic touch. I disagree with that.”
What separates the serious from the froth is the research. Explaining the way he goes about gathering material for his non-fiction books, Zaidi says, “I dig into old police records, I cull the details from there. I also chat up old timers and try to get an entire picture. I don't go by rumours or hear-say. I back up the information with facts.”
His no-nonsense credentials are known. But what does he have to say to about his tribe who might have to rub shoulders with unsavoury elements to get the truth?
Zaidi prescribes doctor-patient relationship to keep this malaise in check.
“I have always got in touch with the mafiosi only for work-related queries. I have not invited them to my shaadi nor have I attended theirs. My equation with them is like a doctor-patient relationship.”
And, yet the cinema continues to be charmed by the underworld. Zaidi agrees and also tries to bring a degree of authenticity to the films, when he is asked to collaborate as a writer. That said, Zaidi is trying to steer clear of underworld in his latest work. He is writing for Kabir Khan's next movie with Saif Ali Khan and Katrina Kaif. Declaring that the film is under wraps, all that he chooses to reveal is, “I am working on an espionage thriller based on 26/11. No depiction of underworld in it.”
Meanwhile, he has co-written a book with Rahul Bhat on David Headley episode, Headley and I, that is touted to be made into a film.
For Zaidi, words have always metamorphosed into images.