At a time when Bollywood heroines of the 1990s — from Juhi Chawla and Raveena Tandon to Pooja Bhatt — are seeing a return to the limelight, thanks to OTT platforms, Mamata Kulkarni, who’s still remembered for her role in Rakesh Roshan’s 1995 reincarnation drama ‘Karan Arjun’ opposite Salman Khan, and drug bust accused, has surprised her fans by staging a comeback on social media.
Her present picture, where she comes across as matronly and not as the poster girl she was in the 1990s, was put up on her Instagram fan page and it caused quite a stir.
‘Karan Arjun’, it was rumoured at that time, was not a very happy experience for Kulkarni, especially because Salman Khan was said to have been quite nasty to her. Kulkarni had another brief dalliance with fame in the Aamir Khan-starrer ‘Baazi’ and then she appeared in a string of forgettable films, slowly fading out.
Briefly, she courted notoriety by doing a topless shoot for a film magazine and then dropped out of the public eye in 2000. Only to be back in the news — now for the wrong reasons.
Kulkarni was reported to have married the Ahmedabad-born international drug lord Vicky Goswami, who had been first arrested on narcotics trafficking charges in Dubai in 1997 (only to be pardoned and let off in 2012), and then again in 2014 in Kenya, where he was freed on bail, pending his extradition to the United States to face charges brought against him by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Goswami and Kulkarni, in fact, had been arrested together in Kenya, but the former actress was let off. The DEA had charged Goswami with controlling the trade in mandrax, a narcotic substance, in sub-Saharan Africa.
Back in India, Goswami was wanted in a case, dating back to the 1990s, involved the recovery of 18.5 tonnes of ephedrine by the Thane police, then headed by the now-controversial cop Param Bir Singh. The substance at that time was said to be worth Rs 2,000 crore in the international market. The police probe had revealed the seized material was to be used to manufacture methamphetamine (popularly known as meth).
Although Goswami has throughout maintained that Kulkarni was his well-wisher and not his wife, and she had once said in a TV interview that they were trying to establish a business in imported food items, Kulkarni, who continued to live in Kenya, was also under a cloud of suspicion.
In 2016, after the seizure of a controlled substance, ephedrine, from a car by the Thane police, yet another case was brought against Goswami and Kulkarni. An NDPS court in Mumbai, which is empowered to take action under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, declared both Goswami and Kulkarni proclaimed offenders, and ordered the sealing of all properties owned by them.
Kulkarni approached the Bombay High Court in 2019 to strike down the case against her. In her plea, she mentioned that the police had no solid ground for citing her involvement in the busted drug deal and that she had been named just because she maintained a “cordial relationship” with Goswami.
She also requested the court to unfreeze her bank accounts and fixed deposits, and unseal two of her flats in Andheri, Mumbai. Earlier this year, the court rejected the plea, but it has not yet pronounced a verdict on Kulkarni’s plea for the quashing of the case.