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Rajan Mahadeo Nair (died September 21, 1983) was an Indian mobster and underworld don from Mumbai, who operated from his base in the Tilaknagar neighborhood of Chembur.He was also Co-Founder of Mumbai underworld. He was popularly known in the Mumbai underworld by his moniker "Bada Rajan" (Big Rajan).




Early years

Born into a Malayali Nair family in Mumbai, Rajan Nair grew up in the lower middle class locality of Tilaknagar in Chembur, a suburb in central Mumbai. Nair got involved in a life of petty crime in his childhood and subsequently acquired his nickname, Bada Rajan.[1] In the early seventies, he teamed up with a thug from the nearby Vikhroli suburb, his namesake Rajan Sadashiv Nikhalje, also known as "Chhota Rajan" (Little Rajan). They both started selling black market movie tickets at the Sahkar Cinema. Black marketing of cinema tickets was one of the main sources of income for Mumbai gangs between the years 1970 and 1985.[2] It was also during this time that Bada Rajan formed his own gang with Chhota Rajan as his chief lieutenant. Badda Rajan served as a great mentor to Chhota Rajan and the two would remain close friends until his death.[1][3]

Underworld rackets and alliances

From black marketing movie tickets, the duo branched out into petty crime and acquired a feared reputation.[1] Like the other gangs headed by Arun Gawli, Amar Naik and his brother Ashwin Naik, the Rajan gang operated protection money rackets and also settled financial and land disputes.[4]

When the powerful Tamilian don of Matunga, Varadarajan Mudaliar shifted his base to Madras, Bada Rajan and his chief lieutenant, Chhota Rajan, expanded into and took control of his rackets over most of Chembur. The remaining part was taken over by Sadhu Shetty, a protege of Mudaliar.[5] Mudaliar controlled the smuggling operations in Mumbai, along with two of the most powerful dons of the Mumbai underworld, Haji Mastan and Karim Lala. He sought assistance from Bada Rajan to protect his territories and neutralise threats from rivals like Karim Lala and Haji Mastan.[6] Gradually, they extended their area of influence from Chembur to Ghatkopar east in northeastern Mumbai.[7]

In 1976, Badda Rajan set up a "mandal" (group) known as the "Sahyadri Krida Sangh" in his native locality of Tilaknagar. He continued to exercise control over the mandal until his murder. The mandal would later pass over to the control of Chhota Rajan after his death, that he continues to hold on to this day.[8]

The Rajan gang also developed close ties to D-Company don, Dawood Ibrahim. When he was deserted by his former Pathan allies of the Karim Lala gang, Ibrahim forged a strong allianve with Badda Rajan.[4] In fact, Ibrahim hired Badda Rajan to kill members of the gang, led by Amirzada Nawab Khan and Lala's nephew, Samad Khan, who had also murdered Ibrahim's elder brother, Shabir. The conspiracy was hatched at Tilaknagar and some local hitmen took part in the shootout.[3]

Gang war with Yashwant Jadhav

By early 1982, Bada Rajan and Chhota Rajan had firmly entrenched themselves in the racket of selling black market movie tickets near Sahakar Theatre in Tilaknagar.[2] The racket of black market tickets near Odeon Theatre was firmly under the control of Chandu, who managed the racket with the help of his aides, Ratna and Antu from Kirol Village in Vidya Vihar. He maintained his control through the use of enforcers Babya Khopde and Lal Singh Chauhan. Since most of the shows were full for at least the first three days, the entire racket was a gold mine for the operators.[2]

Bada Rajan decided to expand his activities by taking control over the blackmarketing operations at Odeon. He made an offer of a 50% partnership to Chandu, which he accepted. In spite of this, however, the next day, Rajan ordered two of his associates to take charge. The duo slapped one of Chandu’s men in fromt of his entire gang. The move had the desired effect and allowed Bada Rajan’s men to seize control over the blackmarketing operations at Odeon, retaining 100 per cent profit.[2]

This, however, did not sit well with rival don Yeshwant Jadhav and his younger brother Sanjay of Ghatkopar, east.[1][2] Jadhav's association with gangster Philip Pandare made him a force to be reckoned with. In the past, Pandare's men had once stabbed Bada Rajan in a local train, criplling him for some time.[2][9]

The conflict further escalated when gangsters Domnic, Bada Tambi, Ashok Kunte, Parliya, Kamlakar, Sanjiva Bhosle and Yeda Bala broke away from the Rajan gang and joined hands with Jadhav. Thereafter, a gang of eight members, headed by Chhota Rajan, set out in autorickshaws looking for Domnic, who was hiding at Odeon. Rajan and his associates were interrupted by Bhogilal at the gate when they tried to barge into the hall to kill Dominic. Rajan repeatedly stabbed him and was followed by other members. They even injured police constables Ramchandra Khare and Ghoraknath Sakpal in the ensuing melee.[2]

Within the next two years, seven gangsters were killed in the resulting gang war between the two gangs.[2] Finally, Badda Rajan sought the help of Vardarajan Mudaliar. He used his power to threaten Jadhav. Desperate, he turned for help to a gangster named Abdul Kunju.[1]


Abdul Kunju had a bitter and long standing enmity with Badda Rajan. It all started when Bada Rajan sent his men to assault some youth in Shell Colony, Chembur, for harassing a woman typist. This incident developed into a deadly rivalry with Kunju.[9] Both Kunju and Rajan had sworn to kill each other.[10]

Aware of Rajan's enormous power in the areas between Ghatkopar and Matunga, Kunju realized that he could not fight the Rajan gang on his own. Therefore, he allied himself with Badda Rajan's rival, Philip Pandare. Pandare’s gang was further strengthened when Vijay Sawant and Francis Xavier, also known as "Shorty", from Pestom Sagar enlisted with them.[9]

After Amirzada Nawab Khan was assassinated outside the sessions court premises on September 6, 1983 by Bada Rajan’s hitman, David Pardesi, Kunju switched sides and allied himself with Kalia Anthony and Mahesh Dolakia of the Karim Lala gang to murder Bada Rajan.[9]

Kunju's neighbor, an autorickshaw driver named Chandrashekar Safalika, who was looking to make Rs 50 lakhs for his sister’s wedding, was hired for the job. He was introduced to hotelier, Mahesh Dholakia at Caesar Palace. Dholakia offered around Rs 50 lakh as "supari" (Murder contract fees) and told him that he would get the entire money if he succeeded in killing Rajan. Safalika left with only Rs 1 lakh. The next day, Kunju provided Safalika with a revolver, and converted an isolated spot near Vikhroli Park site into a firing range. He was trained for the next 15 days by Ramesh Pujari, Mangesh More and Francis a.k.a "Kaliya Anthony" (Blackie Anthony).[10]

In a daring operation, Safalika dressed as a naval cadet with his gun hidden in the cavity of a thick book, stalked Bada Rajan outside the Esplanade court and shot him dead. The hit was carried out on September 21, 1983, exactly 15 days after Amirzada's murder.[9] Safalika was caught on the spot, but managed to escape while he was being escorted to the Thane prison.[10]


The murder of Bada Rajan dealt a devastating blow to his gang. His right hand man and successor, Chhota Rajan was shattered at the loss of his mentor and swore retribution against the assassins.[1]

It was well known that Abdul Kunju was a cricket enthusiast and often managed a good-sized crowd to come and watch him play. This gave Chhota Rajan the opportunity to use Kunju's own passion against him. During one such match in 1985, as Kunju hit a boundary, three young gangsters dressed in T-shirts and sneakers, including Sanjay Raggad, Sadhu Shetty and Chhota Rajan himself, entered the arena on the pretext of retrieving the ball. After doing so, they walked right up to Kunju, pulled out their guns and shot him dead at point blank range.[1][4]

After Kunju's death, Dolakiya went back on his word and refused to deliver the remaining 49 lakhs, leaving the now fugitive Safalika helpless and on his own. In desperation, he turned to the Thane-based goon Abdul Majid for help. Majid invited him over for a treat at a bar in Thane, which in actuality was owned by Sadhu Shetty. Safalika got very drunk and remained at the bar in the same night for shelter. In the meanwhile, Shetty tipped off Chhotta Rajan to his whereabouts and Safalika was woken up at around 4 a.m. by Rajan's henchmen. He was then driven in a Fiat car to Dawood Ibrahim’s younger brother, Noora’s hideout at Nagpada. There he was viciously interrogated, tortured and subsequently murdered the next day.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Gangsta’ Rap: The life and time of Chhota Rajan - S. Hussein Zaidi, Express India
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h How some died for film tickets - April 4, 2004, Express India
  3. ^ a b A don's journey – From selling tickets in black to Rs 1000-cr crime ``empire' - September 18, 2000, Indian Express
  4. ^ a b c 'D' Company on the run? - February 2003, Frontline
  5. ^ The rise, fall and death of Chembur don - May 13, 2002, The times of India
  6. ^ Docks nurtured city’s underworld - October 26, 2002, Express India
  7. ^ Black Friday: the true story of the Bombay bomb blasts, S. Hussain Zaidi, Penguin Books, 2002, p. 25
  8. ^ Performative politics and the cultures of Hinduism: public uses of religion, Raminder Kaur, Orient Blackswan, 2003 , p. 84
  9. ^ a b c d e It all started with an eve-teasing - November 2, 2003, Express India
  10. ^ a b c d He began supari killings - March 16, 2002, Express India


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