‘Madam, I’ll tell you what I know,’ he said, pushing his spectacles up, ‘but promise me, you won’t reveal my name… King Khan’s friend D.K. in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi is Anuj Tikku… He owns all first-floor-flats. There are 3 of them. His old father was murdered. I hear his paying guests did it. They are untraceable.’
The mastermind was Vijay Palande. While Palande hatched the murder conspiracy, his 2 accomplices – Dhananjay Shinde and Manoj Gajakosh – executed the crime. The killers wanted possession of Anuj’s 15,000-square-feet apartment at Lokhandwala’s Samartha Angan Housing Society. They were also eyeing other properties of Tikkus.
Palande didn’t fit any pattern. There was nothing in his behavior, mannerisms or conduct that would make anyone think he was a murderer, forget a serial killer. Unlike other prisoners, he was educated, sophisticated and was teaching himself law. Palande, like Ted Bundy, has humanized serial killers. He has shown us, murderers, unlike popular notions, can be sophisticated, socially respectable people. ‘Potla kar denge’, he used to say, meaning ‘maar ke, kaat ke, potle mei daal ke vanish kar denge body ko’.
We believe, Simrin was being used as bait by Palande. She has acted in a few B-grade, rather obscene films. When I asked Anuj Tikku what he thought about Simrin, he said, ‘She was a crass version of Pulp Fiction‘s Uma Thurman – like a gun moll, but not a classy one. She would dress provocatively, would snort cocaine’.
Leo Tolstoy wrote in Anna Karenina, ‘He stepped down, trying not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even without looking.’ “‘She’, to us, is journalism,” a Senior Journalist once said to me. “You think that if you don’t look straight at it, you’ll remain unaffected, that those little tales you write about each day – of hope, betrayal, victory, loss – won’t make you laugh or cry. But even if you do look away, you’re breathing every bit of them, every moment. And like the sun, all those stories, all those people, they’re all with you, in you.”
If a man can have sex in front of his dying father, there is something terribly strange about him, if not wrong. Simrin appeared to be helplessly in love with Palande.
He does have costly tastes – he only sips premium Bombay Sapphire gin, wears Ralph Lauren, has a fetish for expensive cars, luxurious apartments, often travels abroad, has seen most of Europe, and has 2 beautiful women to support. During one of our interactions at Court, Palande told me, what he missed most was traveling. ‘I love travelling,’ he said to me. ‘I had a restaurant in Barcelona, another one in Berlin. But now it’s all finished. What sane person is going to sit and do business with me now?’
Lodged in Maharashtra’s Thane Central Jail, Vijay Palande is now under trial. In late 2015, he reportedly ranked 2nd among 98 inmates in a prison exam on Gandhian principles. Simrin is currently out on bail.
Anuj gave up on his Bollywood dreams. He now writes a travel blog.
– Puja Changoiwala, The Front Page Murders (Hachette, 2016).