"I have two daughters and I was worried about what these men will do to them. I didn't have a choice," 56-year-old Thangaraj tells TNM.

Anbu Chezhiyan crony cops forced me to retract case in 2013 Producer Thangaraj to TNMScreenshot from YouTube/Friday Cinemaa WebTV
news Crime Thursday, November 23, 2017 - 19:06

'Financier held for extorting money'

'Famous financier Madurai Anbu arrested'

'Film Financier held on attempt to murder charge'

These were headlines on national and regional dailies in Tamil Nadu on December 2, 2011. The Madurai police had arrested usurer and one of Tamil film industry’s biggest financier Anbu Chezhiyan. His arrest sent a shock wave in for film and political circles.

Charges of attempt to murder and conspiracy were slapped against the financier in 2011. It was based on a complaint filed by film producer V Thangaraj who had borrowed Rs.20 lakh from Anbu Chezhiyan. The money was loaned out in 2004 but in the years that followed, the producer had paid over a crore as just interest and lost all his land documents to the financier. In addition to this he complained that he was constantly abused, threatened and intimidated by the usurer, forcing him to seek police help.

Anbu was remanded to judicial custody and to the producer it seemed that his days of living in mortal fear were over.

But two years later, as he sat in his Kodambakkam residence in Chennai, Anbu's lawyer stood in front of him with papers stating that Thangaraj was withdrawing his case. Behind him, according to the producer, were 10 men who worked for the financier, striking a menacing picture.

"I have two daughters and I was worried about what these men will do to them. I didn't have a choice," 56-year-old Thangaraj tells TNM, breaking his silence for the first time after Ashok Kumar's death . "I was afraid and I signed the papers that closed the case against Anbu Chezhiyan  in 2013," he admits. 

'25 police stations refused to take complaints'

Thangaraj, a popular producer, known for films such as Meesai Madhavan and Sundara Travels was forced to sign blank stamp papers and cheques before the amount was given to him in 2004. When the 'torture' began at the hands of the financier, he went to one police station after another, hoping his clout in the film industry, would help.

"I went to 25 police stations in Chennai alone but not a single officer was ready to take my complaint," he confesses. "Anbu would send his men to my house, beat me and my family, insult us and even threaten to kill us. But he had so much political backing. Nobody could do a thing," he adds.

The producer had almost given up on getting justice. He lost property worth Rs.2 crore to the financier, who was still demanding that he pay the principal amount. "My wife, children and I were literally on the streets. We had no help from anybody in the film fraternity because nobody was willing to take on Anbu," he says. It was during this time, that he decided to go check some property his family owned in Madurai, hoping that he will be able to sell it. "I went to the Madurai SP's office and that was when I met SP Asra Garg. He was the first officer willing to even sit me down and take my complaint. He immediately called Anbu Chezhiyan for an inquiry the next day," he adds.

But the minute word spread of the summons, the phone calls began.

A police officer, who was a part of the investigation team at the time told TNM that he had never faced this kind of pressure in his career.

“A top Thevar politician from the ruling party called almost immediately. Then, an actor who was dabbling in politics called. Within a matter of hours, my seniors got calls from eight politicians,” he said earlier.

Even as the police were fending off actors and politicians, Thangaraj was being warned by multiple men in khakhi to not pursue the case.

"The most prominent amongst them was a Deputy Superintendent. He kept telling me to withdraw my complaint," recalls Thangaraj. "I got so many calls from police officials demanding that I let the case slide. But I wanted to continue the fight," he adds. 

No straws to clutch

The producer finally caved in 2013, not only due to police insistence but because, "I couldn't handle Anbu's threats anymore. He said he will kill me and hurt my family." Moreover, SP Asra Garg who was handling the case had been transferred from Madurai and Thangaraj was left in a lurch.

"I knew that the other policemen will not support me. I had three children to educate and couldn't handle the abuse being doled out. And what was the point fighting him when he had so much political influence?" he asks.

The political web

In his suicide note, Ashok Kumar had written, “All the people like the big shots in the class of officers (police), in the government, Cinema Federation Chief Selvin Raj, are in his pocket. I cannot oppose him.”

While complicity of police officials in the matter was made clear by Thangaraj, the political support received by Anbu Chezhian is a matter that requires deeper introspection.

An investigating officer had confirmed calls from a political leader belonging to the Thevar community back in 2011 when the arrest occurred. After Ashok Kumar’s death, PMK founder Ramadoss alleged that a leader doing ‘Dharma Yuddham’ was behind Anbu. Though Ramadoss has not named anyone, AIADMK leader O Panneerselvam is the man associated with the terminology, a word he used against Sasikala.

Ramadoss says, "It is clear that the producer died due to usury. Then why has the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Charging Exorbitant Interest Act of 2003 not been invoked? The reason for this is the interference of a 'righteous' man. This man who held the 'Dharma Yuddham' has invested crores of black money into this usury through his 'heir'. Anbu Chezhiyan manages all this money. That is why there is no action in the case yet."

The PMK founder further alleges that both Dravidian parties (DMK and AIADMK) have protected the usurer. A claim that Thangaraj confirms.

"There have been times when Anbu has told me that he has the support of Karunanidhi's son Alagiri," says the producer. "I didn't know if it was true or not but here, the man who has money can gain support anywhere, so I believed him," he adds.

When Thangaraj was fighting the legal battle, nobody from the Producers Council that he is a part allegedly came forward to help. "All this was even more demoralising. Even actors like Sarathkumar did not help," he alleges. 

So why is the producer ready to talk now?

"After I heard of Ashok Kumar's death, I called Anbu's lawyer," admits Thangaraj. "I said I won't talk to the media but they must give back the money they owe me," he adds.

Did he go through with the deal?

"No, it is not that easy to get money from them," he laughs. "But now my focus has changed. I don't want money or property, I want revenge for the torture my family and I went through. The financier must be jailed." he concludes.

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