MUMBAI/PUNE: The Income-Tax Department swooped down on Wednesday on the residential and official premises of Bollywood celebs Taapsee Pannu, Anurag Kashyap and the latter’s partners who had launched the now shuttered production house Phantom Films.
The searches drew much flak on social media with inferences being drawn about ‘outspoken critics’ of the government being ‘fixed’ rather than it being perceived as just another instance of the law taking its own course.
Pannu and Kashyap were shooting in Pune and are understood to have been questioned by the tax sleuths as part of the preliminary quizzing that takes place during raids.
The searches, on the face of it, a part of a tax evasion probe against Phantom, were carried out across 30 locations in Mumbai and Pune. The production house was co-promoted by Kashyap, director-producer Vikramaditya Motwane, producer Vikas Bahl and producer-distributor Madhu Mantena. All of them are within the purview of the investigation. Founded in 2011, Phantom produced films such as "Lootera", "Queen", "Ugly", "NH 10", "Masaan" and "Udta Punjab". Kashyap later launched a new production company called Good Bad Films while Motwane launched Andolan Films.
Also under the I-T lens are Reliance Entertainment group CEO Shibhasish Sarkar and some executives of celebrity and talent management companies KWAN and Exceed. While Kwan's client list includes Deepika Padukone, Exceed manages Saif Ali Khan and Sonakshi Sinha, among others. Sources said some inter-linked transactions between the entities searched are being looked into and the raids are aimed at gathering more evidence to buttress the tax evasion allegations.
The sleuths trooped out of Anurag’s residence after almost 11 hours of investigation.
Responding to a question at a press conference in Delhi, Union minister Prakash Javadekar rejected allegations that the raids against Kashyap and Pannu were linked to their comments, which are at times unduly critical of the BJP. "This is too much," he said in response to the question. "Probe agencies undertake investigations based on credible information and the matter later goes to courts as well," he added
Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik said the Income Tax raids were an attempt to suppress the voices of those who have the audacity to speak up against the Narendra Modi-led government. "Central agencies like ED, CBI, and Income Tax are being used to target those who take an anti-government stand and speak against the policies of the regime," the minister told reporters outside Vidhan Bhavan in south Mumbai.
His cabinet colleague Ashok Chavan of the Congress said the raids were the Centre's way to pressurise people who put forth "facts" so that they do not speak up.
Kashyap and Pannu are outspoken critics of the government and have lent their voice to various causes, including the ongoing farmer protests against central laws. Recently, Pannu had criticised the involvement of celebrities in a government-backed campaign to counter pop star Rihanna's post drawing attention to the farmers' agitation. "If one tweet rattles your unity, one joke rattles your faith or one show rattles your religious belief, then it's you who have to work on strengthening your value system and not become propaganda teachers for others," Pannu had said on social media last month.
Kashyap had been forthright in condemning the violence against anti-Citizenship Act protesters in 2019. Last year, he had expressed support for actor Rhea Chakraborty in the Sushant Singh Rajput case and had slammed Bollywood actors for not speaking up enough. Of late, however, he has been quiet on Twitter, except for occasionally retweeting others.
33-year-old Taapsee made a name for herself in films such as "Pink", "Thappad" and "Badla." 48-year-old Kashyap was the man behind "Black Friday", "Dev D" and the two-part crime saga "Gangs of Wasseypur".