Hyderabad: Much like James Bond, he "had relations with" 600 women, one of whom accompanied him on risky adventures while another betrayed him to the enemy. Unlike namesake and fellow desperado Quick Gun Murugan, he had no need of guns.
Now the life of Telugu film producer Bala Murugan, more colourful than the movies he made, may have to be retold on celluloid by someone else. The 37-year-old has been arrested and charged with serial bank robberies and burglaries across five south Indian states.
To ask why a filmmaker who zipped across Hyderabad in an Innova and was seen at film parties should be storming bank vaults and not the box office is to put the cart before the horse, according to Cyberabad police commissioner C.V. Anand.
"He and his gang robbed banks and the homes of the rich to pull in the money he needed to achieve his lifelong ambition of becoming a movie producer," Anand said, basing his claims on what he said was Murugan's confession.
"For reasons of sentiment and luck, the first of his two wives, Manjula, always accompanied him on his robberies."
Apparently, Murugan's ostentatious lifestyle was a show and the earth-moving business he launched a few years ago in Kerala and Tamil Nadu didn't generate enough profits to finance his cinematic ambitions.
His only completed movie, a "social film" titled Manasa Vinava (Have You Heard Me) that he shot on a Rs 50-lakh budget two years ago, has not released - apparently because he couldn't pay for its distribution.
Murugan and Suresh Paneerselvam - his nephew, alleged accomplice and the hero ofVinava - were taken into custody in Bangalore last week after suspected gang member V. Dinakaran spilled the beans following his arrest, an officer said.
"We received the shock of our lives when Dinakaran named Murugan as the ring leader," he confessed.
The duo were produced yesterday in a Hyderabad court, which sent them to judicial custody. Manjula and two or three others are at large.
Anand said his team had been tracking Murugan's gang since they robbed three Grameena Banks last year - in Mahbubnagar (Telangana) in August, Chittoor (Andhra Pradesh) on November 17 and Cyberabad on December 8.
"They would first select a rural or sub-urban bank and conduct a recce, pretending they were having trouble with their Innova and all the while observing the movements of the public in the area," he said.
"Then, they would break into homes in another area and steal LPG cylinders just before the bank robbery. On a holiday or at night, they would drive to the bank. While Suresh stayed in the car as the lookout, the rest would use gas cutters fuelled by the LPG cylinders to cut the window grilles."
Murugan was born to a middle-class family of four sisters and two brothers in Tiruvarur, Tamil Nadu, the commissioner said.
He was apparently expelled from his school on the charges of harassing the girl students, stealing from classmates' bags and picking teachers' pockets.
At some point, he is believed to have escaped from a juvenile shelter home. Not much is known of his youth except that "he claimed to have had relations with 600 women over a period of 11 years", Anand said.
Murugan married Manjula in Tamil Nadu and then Mahi in Hyderabad when his first wife failed to produce an offspring.
He changed cities several times and was living with his two wives in the same house in Bangalore when, five years ago, Mahi told the police about some petty theft Murugan had committed in Andhra.
He spent a month or two in a Bangalore jail. After his release, he walked out on Mahi. He and Manjula later adopted a boy and a girl.
Murugan is accused of 29 thefts, including eight bank robberies, a temple break-in and car thefts. Officers claim that Rs 1.72 crore was seized from him in cash and valuables.
Anand said that over the past decade, Murugan had carried out robberies across southern India - from Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad to Cochin, Trivandrum, Coimbatore and Visakhapatnam.
All this while, he moved around several states, introducing himself as a movie producer and making new friends at film parties. He got himself registered with the Film and Television Producers Guild of South India under the banner of N. Rajammal Films.
When he was arrested, he was about to start shooting another film, Aatma.