The fate of one of Pali Hill’s most famous landmark lingers in uncertainty.
An old dilapidated building, which was once a sprawling bungalow, where yesteryear’s moviestar Dilip Kumar and his family lived, is under a long-standing dispute that has now taken a desperate turn.
Kumar’s former actress wife Saira Banu, who wants to redevelop the property, is in a legal tussle with local builder Samir Bhojwani, who has claimed the property. Located at Mumbai’s prime suburb of Bandra, the half an acre plot (2000 sq. mt.) shares the neighbourhood with some of Bollywood’s biggies including Rishi Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt and Aamir Khan. Given its redevelopment potential, brokers say the property could be worth as much as ₹350 crore at the current market price.
“The house means everything. It is our home, which Dilip saab had bought in 1953 much before I married him…Inside, where he lived, we wanted to build a museum of Dilip saab’s memoirs, awards and his other precious things. Now everything has been disrupted,” Banu said over the phone.
The actress said Bhojwani’s claim over the property was “fraudulent” and “illegal”. “Nobody dares to come against him because he has super clout, lot of wealth and political connection. He is throwing his weight around,” she said.
According to Banu’s lawyer Chirag Shah, the claims by Bhojwani were baseless and the documents have been forged to illegally take the property. He said the legendary actor had bought the bungalow in 1953 from Kamruddin Latif for ₹1.4 lakh. In 1923, Latif had taken the plot on a leasehold basis from Mulraj Khatau’s family for 999 years.
The tussle took a desperate turn last week when Banu “begged” for a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi through her husband’s official Twitter handle. Banu tweeted that she was “tired of repeated assurances” from Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to resolve the matter. “Sir, you are the last hope of protecting Dilip Sahab’s only house from land mafia Samir Bhojwani. I beg,” she wrote.
In April 2018, Bhojwani was arrested by the Economic Offences Wing of Mumbai police after complaints by Divyakant Khatau, a member of the Khatau family, over forged documents in a land title case. Bhojwani is now out on bail. Earlier this year, Banu had also filed a First Information Report (FIR) against Bhojwani. She alleged the builder, who is facing similar cases of alleged land grabbing and illegal construction around Bandra, has been harassing the family.
“Dilip saab inaugurated the new development and he (Bhojwani) is coming in the way since the past 10 years. We don’t have so much time on our hand. We are both unwell because of this terrible conflict,” she said.
After Banu’s tweet, Bhojwani, through his lawyer Digvijay R. Singh, issued a public notice on 21 December claiming that he was the rightful owner of the property. He claimed that the property was bought by his father in 1980, and he has inherited it.
Shah, however, maintains that none of the family members of Khatau have signed any document for transaction of the plot in 1980. Bhojwani’s lawyer could not reached despite repeated calls on his office landline number.
“Members of Khatau family, other Pali Hill residents as well other persons who have been cheated by Bhojwani have contacted Saira-ji. Came to know the level of crime committed by him. We have already initiated actions. Will update in due course,” Shah said.