While filming the finale of Lagaan in Bhuj, more than 10,000 villagers, who were being used as extras, wished to get up close and personal with the film’s lead actor, Aamir Khan. Six guards from Ace Security And Protection, armed with only sticks, managed the mob-like situation. In a separate incident, when Hrithik Roshan emerged from an event in the city, fans threatened to mob the star, when Topsgrup body guards formed a human chain to escort the star into a vehicle and calmed the crowd by continually interacting with them.
Bollywood actors, such as the Bachchans, Kareena Kapoor, Mallika Sherawat, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and many others operate under strict security cover.
“Security is the second largest business in the West, and I see India going that way too,” says TV actor Ronit Roy who, after working with his friend Vikas Verma, the head of Property Guards, formed his own outfit Ace Security And Protection. Roy’s company is famous for its body-guarding services, its client list boasting many illustrious Bollywood names such as Aamir Khan, Celina Jaitley, Preity Zinta and Hrithik Roshan.
“Around two years ago our company’s annual turnover from executive protection was 25 lakh. We had around 130 clients then,” says Deepak Monga, brand manager for Topsgrup Total Security Solutions. The figure has now touched 63 lakh, with around 250 subscribers, for only body guarding. S N Rai, CEO of Globe Detective Agency Private Ltd. continues in a similar vein. He says, “A couple of years back our earnings from bodyguarding was between 10 to 12 lakh. This has shot up to between 15 to 16 lakh today,” says Rai. Even Shera, known filmstar Salman Khan’s man-in-arms, owns a security outfit, Tiger Security Services Ltd., through which he supplies bodyguards to other stars as well, though he reiterates, “Salman Khan is and will be our permanent client. We will provide security coverage for him wherever he is in the world.”
EVERYMAN’S BODY GUARD
The rich and the powerful have been known to employ security but, in a startling trend, today there are many other takers of their services as well. “Earlier 99 per cent of our clientele were filmstars. Today industrialists and corporates are also hiring protection,” points out Monga. Rai agrees: “Now even middle level businessmen with a turnover of around 50 crore are our clients, apart from the top industrialists.” Pandurang Sakpal, managing partner of SRSF (Safe Reliable Suraksha Force) also admits that his clientele today comprises the upper-middle-class businessman and corporate. “With security available at Rs 15,000 a month, it has become affordable,” he says, seconded by Monga, “People are more aware of security options. And place their life at a premium, considering the reasonable protection charges.”
It is curious that there is a demand for security, given the presence of a well-equipped state police force. Roy offers the macro-perspective: “The need for security has grown proportionately with the growth in crime, due to the sudden burst in the economy and the population growth.” Monga believes that private security agencies are extensions of the government. “We look upon ourselves as a body that offers the government a helping hand,” he says. Rai is not so benevolent towards the forces. He says: “Obviously the police force is unable to meet the growing protection demands. Which is why those who receive threatening calls have to resort to alternative arrangements.” To prove his point he says, “We were providing security to Gulshan Kumar with another agency. A month after he discontinued our services, he was shot.”
PICK YOUR MAN
Who would you feel the most secure with – a beefcake or a youthful and agile person? Bodyguards come in two levels: A and B. The former comprises a team of very young and agile people, whereas the latter has people with impressive build who look intimidating but are not as effective on field.
“It’s funny that when we send both groups to the client to choose from, he often chooses a B level over A. I suppose some people want a body guard more for the show,” laughs Rai. Topsgrup has a similar categorisation. “There’s an executive protection officer, an armed executive protection officer and an unarmed combat executive protection officer,” lists Monga. While the first is the guard with an impressive build, the latter two are the men to have around on field. “The unarmed combat executive protection officer may look thin and wiry, but he can take on 10 people in hand-tohand combat.” The Topsgrup has also an Amazonish clan called Tops Angels, who are female guards meant to guard women. “This class is especially popular film actresses,” he says.
But not everyone classifies their guards. “We do not have a grade system, but have one group of specialised personnel,” says Roy. “The security provided to the client is decided according to their need, not by a pre-ordained class. I want to supply security and not mere manpower.”
DO YOU QUALIFY?
So you are fit, and think you can get in, right? Well, it’s not so hunky dory and Bollywood-like. Candidates are chosen on their knowledge of martial arts, fitness and general alertness and reflexes. Roy, for… well, security purposes like to keep his business “in the family”, relying on recommendations of those already employed with Ace for recruitment. Some agencies, like SRSF however operate on contract basis; they recruit from martial arts institutes and fitness trainers from wellknown gyms, after checking up on their backgrounds. They then go through a week’s training programme to acquaint themselves with the job. In certain agencies, such as Shera’s Tiger Security Services, ex-army men are preferred. “But that is not always possible, as ex-armymen are often very old,” Rai points out. But Shera would have them on a supervisory role “as they are good on on-spot strategising”.
Agencies prefer to rotate bodyguards. “We haven’t had any untoward incidents yet, but prefer not to have one bodyguard for an individual for a long stretch, to avoid over-familiarity,” explains Rai.
First aid, evacuation, fire prevention and control, explosives and action on detection of bombs and patrolling procedures are standard parts of the training programme. But Rai focuses on training his men to suit particular situations. “They are taught to deal with specifics such as car attacks, an attack at a party, an office or a residence. There is also a chapter on screening visitors. While for specialised training, Ace security guards go for a 100-day training programme including Krav Maga (the famed Israeli military unarmed combat system) and Jujitsu (a Brazilian martial art), they are also taught how to deal with situations that may not necessitate combat. “Often the people who try to mob the stars are fans. You can’t use un-armed combat on such people, but just pure physical restraint!” explains Roy.
Over and above all this, the actual security strategies are often tailormade. “We sit with the client and figure out the ‘threat perceptions’ they face. Then we strategise on contingencies and alternative paths of action,” Roy emphasises. Rai adds, “We use various permutations and combinations. Whether or not we should have vehicles following the VIP depends entirely on the extent of threat.” Sakpal prefers to have plain-clothes men on motorcycles or cars patrolling the area where the VIP is located. “When we see sniff trouble, we either follow it or inform the police.”
The threats are disparate as well. “It can be from the underworld or from a begrudged employee who has access to inside information,” claims Monga. “Both must be dealt with caution.”
This article first appeared in Mumbai Mirror, Times Of India: http://alturl.com/9o7h