Birthday: March 1, 1926
Died At Age: 68
Sun Sign: Pisces
Also Known As: Aaquib Hussain
Born in: Panaikulam, Ramanathapuram District (Madras Presidency now Tamil Nadu), British India
Famous as: Gangster, Smuggler
Height: 1.80 m
Spouse/Ex-: Shahjehan Begum (m. 1984–1994)
father: Haider Mirza
children: Akhtar Mirza, Nadir Mirza, Nasir Mirza, Shamshad Supariwala
Died on: May 9, 1994
Haji Mastan was an Indian gangster and smuggler, who later also dealt in film financing and real estate. Popularly known as the ‘Undisputed Don’ of Mumbai’s underworld, he partied with the who’s who of the city, right from top politicians to Bollywood actors and business magnates. The modern-day gangsters, right from Dawood Ibrahim to Chhota Rajan, Chhota Shakeel to Arun Gowli, were all trained under Haji Mastan. Mastan taught them the nitty-gritty of international smuggling, a craft that he was a master of. However, despite his criminal status, Haji Mastan was never considered a dreaded entity. In spite of having ruled Mumbai for more than two decades, Mastan never killed or shot anyone or got into a brawl with someone. He, in fact, urged the gangsters to stay away from ending human lives, through drugs, guns or any other means. He used to resolve the inter-gang wars and fights. After his imprisonment during the Indian Emergency, Mastan turned into a film producer and real estate businessman. He gave up on illegitimate businesses and turned into an activist and worked for the betterment of the poor and uneducated Muslim youths in the ghetto areas of Bhendi Bazar, Dongri and Nagpada in South Mumbai.
Childhood & Early Life
Haji Mastan was born as Mastan Haider Mirza on March 1, 1926 in Pannaikulam, near Ramanathapuram, in present day Tamilnadu. He spent much of his growing up years living in the coastal town of Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu before finally migrating to Mumbai along with his father. He was eight then.
In Mumbai, the father-son duo struggled to make a living. Despite working for long hours at a small cycle repairing shop, they barely managed to earn enough for their family’s subsistence. Mastan, while walking past the big bungalows with their luxury cars near beach side, his route to and from work, every day, made a resolutiom that he too would own one someday.
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By the time, Haji Mastan was in his early twenties, his status had barely improved. Though he had come a long way since his cycle repair shop days and was then working in the docks, his dream to become rich and wealthy looked far and distant.
While working in the docks that Mastan befriended an elderly Arab gentleman, Galib Sheikh. The latter was looking for someone who could help him smuggle gold biscuits out of the dock without drawing the attention of the authorities. Mastan’s innocent face and naive demeanour made him perfect man for the job.
Mastan started hiding gold biscuit in his clothes and sneaked them out to the Arab gentleman. Given his scrawny looks, no one even noticed or questioned his presence. As a courier boy for the Arab, Mastan was rewarded with a neat sum of money for his service. This marked the beginning of Mastan’s involvement in criminal activities.
In little time, Haji Mastan established a firm footing in the smuggling business. He started making contact and establishing links. He formed a partnership with Sukkur Narayan Bakhia, a smuggler. Together the two divided the territories between themselves and controlled the contraband smuggled into Mumbai and Daman from Persian Gulf countries. While Bakhia looked after the Daman trade, Mastan controlled the Mumbai port.
From 1960 to 1975, Haji Mastan controlled much of Mumbai’s smuggling business. Soon, he made a fortune out of it. After becoming a rich man, he realized his childhood dream of owning a bungalow by the beach side. He bought a sea-facing bungalow at Peddar Road, then one of the most upmarket places of Mumbai. However, despite the huge space, he preferred to live in the small room built on the terrace.
During Indian Emergency in 1975-77, Mastan was arrested under COFEPOSA (Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act). While in jail, Mastan repented for his mistakes and vowed not to return to the underworld ever again.
The 18 months of imprisonment changed his mind and heart completely. From being a hard core smuggler to renouncing all the misdeeds, the journey was self-uplifting. During this time, he was also influenced by the ideology of politician Jayaprakash Narayan.
Life After Jail
After being released from jail, Mastan went on haj. It was thereafter that he came to be referred as Haji Mastan. He stopped all his illegitimate activities and took to film financing. Film financing then was an unorganized business and film producers of that time often struggled for money unlike current times.
Mastan started film financing and turned into a film producer himself. He became a successful producer and excelled in film business. Established Hindi film stars of yesteryears including Amitabh Bachchan, Raj Kapoor, Feroz Khan, Dharmendra, Sanjeev Kumar and Dilip Kumar visited him regularly.
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Apart from being film producer, Mastan also had business interests in real estate, electronic goods and hotels. He owned several electronic shops in Manish Market on Mohammad Ali Road.
Despite not being involved in criminal activities, Mastan remained friends with underworld gangs. Due to his reputation, he often served as the mediator during inter-gang wars. It is said that to put an end to the fights, Mastan called all top gang leaders and recommended to split Mumbai between the gangs so that they could freely operate without any confrontation from rival gangs.
Mastan became involved in social services. He assisted the poor by providing them with financial assistance and moral guidance. He also joined forces with anti-drug activist Dr Yusuf Merchant in eradicating drug usage amongst youth.
In 1984, Mastan became a Muslim leader. He formed Dalit Muslim Surakhsha Maha Sangh in 1985. Dalit Muslim Surakhsha Maha Sangh was later renamed 'Bharatiya Minorities Suraksha Mahasangh’.
Personal Life & Legacy
Haji Mastan married Shahjehan Begum in 1984. She is popularly known as Sona. Haji Mastan was very fond of Indian actress Madhubala and he found shades of Madhubala in Shahhejan Begum and hence married her.
Haji Mastan had four children with Shahjehan Begum: a daughter Shamshad Supariwala, and three sons Nadir Nasir and Akhtar Mirza. He also had an adopted son, Sundar Shaekhar, who was a Hindu by birth.
Haji Mastan died of cancer, on May 9, 1994, at the age of 68..
The 1975 super hit film ‘Deewar’ that established Amitabh Bachchan as angry young man of the Hindi film industry was based on the life of Haji Mastan.
The 2010 film ‘Once Upon a Time in Mumbai’ too was heavily based on Mastan's life. In it, Ajay Devgn played the character of Haji Mastan while Emraan Hashmi essayed the role of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.
On May 25, 2017, it was announced that Rajnikanth's upcoming film ‘Kala Karikalan’ would be based on gangster Haji Mastan. However, just when the announcement was made in the media, Mastan’s adopted son Sundar Shekar Mishra sent a notice to Rajinikanth. Wunderbar Films later confirmed that the movie is not based on the life of Haji Mastan.