Bollywood on a high
The drug trade has grown into such a gigantic criminal enterprise sprawling across the globe that it is now almost unstoppable. With multiple arrests happening from Bollywood, it is becoming more and more difficult to deglorify drug abuse. Several Bollywood celebrities have vouched for the fact that drug culture prevails at a large scale in Bollywood, and without it, it is difficult to get accepted in the hallowed lanes of the dreamland that Bollywood is. The most recent controversy in this is that of Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan who the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) took into custody following a drug bust on a cruise ship off the coast of Mumbai.
On October 3, the Narcotics Control Bureau arrested Shahrukh Khan’s elder son, Aryan Khan, for illegal possession of drugs. Disguised as a passenger, NCB’s zonal director Sameer Wankhede led the raid inside Cordelia Cruises’ Empress Ship, which was bound from Mumbai to Goa. The raid was launched after the NCB received a tip-off regarding the presence of banned drugs in a rave party that began mid-sea. Eight suspects have been apprehended and are being investigated, one of who is Aryan Khan, who now stands arrested.
As per reports, during the operation, drugs such as MDMA/Ecstasy, Cocaine, MD (Mephedrone) and charas were recovered from the suspects who are Munmun Dhamecha, Nupur Sarika, Ismeet Singh, Mohak Jaswal, Vikrant Chhoker, Gomit Chopra, Aryan Khan and Arbaaz Merchant. All those under questioning are youngsters from well-off families, and who or whose parents belong to the fields of glamour, fashion and business. The organisers of the party are also being questioned.
The phones of all eight had been seized to investigate their chats for clues regarding their association with drugs. As per reports, the president and CEO of Cordelia Cruises Jurgen Bailom said the narcotics department found drugs in some passengers’ luggage who “were then off-loaded immediately and the sailing of the cruise got delayed”. The ship had started off from Mumbai for a three-day musical voyage to Goa when it was intercepted by the NCB. On board, various events were planned with DJs from abroad, including DR Stan Kolev from the US, Raoul K. from Ivory Coast and Kayza from Morocco.
Aryan Khan’s case is not a lone case in this context. There have been multiple other cases in the recent past involving big Bollywood names that have been allegedly involved in drug culture. The biggest name in this is that of Sanjay Dutt who has opened up about his encounter with drugs in various interviews. Rajkumar Hirani’s 2018 film Sanju is a much acclaimed movie that shows the journey of the actor throughout his life and also portrays how he came out of his addiction. Dutt is now a part of the drug-free India campaign promoted by The Art of Living Foundation.
Fardeen Khan, who was arrested in 2001 while he was in possession of 9gm of cocaine, also decided to undergo a detox programme and was later granted bail with immunity in 2012. The actor is now concentrating on his health in order to make a comeback.
Bollywood has been on the NCB’s radar for drug consumption in particular since last year when in the case related to Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, actor Rhea Chakraborty spilled the beans on a long list of peers from her fraternity including Sara Ali Khan and Rakul Preet Singh—both of who are her contemporaries in Bollywood—as having consumed narcotic substances. Ever since then, the NCB has summoned a number of celebrities from the Hindi film industry, including Deepika Padukone, in relation to consumption of drugs.
“But there is nothing surprising about the talk of Bollywood’s association with narcotic substances or contraband,” says Vivek Agnihotri, director of Tashkent files, while talking to the Week. “This is not new. Cocaine is called the champagne of Bollywood parties and glamour is essential for the syndicate to thrive and survive,” Agnihotri said.
He talked about the systematic and organised manner in which the entire operation is carried out. “Right from identifying the newbies or starlets in the industry to introducing them to drugs, an entire (drugs) industry works on how to get newer people in the industry hooked. Influential A-listers are roped in to impress upon younger starlets to take it up and very soon, unknowingly at first, one gets pulled into a syndicate. Within the industry, the network works on commission basis, in a way that the user becomes the dealer or the promoter and pushes others to in turn become members for a certain percentage. There is a reason why some known senior people, no matter how talented they are, do not get work in Bollywood. It is because they refuse to be a part of the group,” claimed Agnihotri. Reportedly, Rhea had told NCB that 80 per cent of Bollywood stars were on drugs.
In the constantly changing world of Bollywood, some things remain constant: star power, fan culture and drug abuse. Until a few years ago, drug abuse was a far-fetched subject for Bollywood to cover. As journalists and news portals around the country started uncovering drugged episodes of Bollywood celebrities, their Public Relations did all they could to protect the image of said stars from being linked with drug abuse.
But this does not change the fact that Bollywood has had an affiliation with drugs for longer than we’re aware of. If one has ever lived in Mumbai, it’s common for one to hear stories about how some actors would supply drugs to others.
While, these could well easily be hearsay, media reports and police investigations say otherwise. With Udta Punjab, Bollywood has finally touching base on the sensitive subject of popular icons being drug addicts.
According to industry insiders, drug use in Bollywood is similar to that in Hollywood and the rest of India. Long and strenuous shoots, hyper-aerobic dances and some actors shooting for more than one movie simultaneously require high energy levels demanded by producers-directors. Some are initiated to drugs in parties but aren’t addicted. For some it is the way of life – nothing unusual. Actors used drugs in the past too went to rehab, even more than once, but were not questioned for drug abuse, only for the possession of illegal weapons.
After a movie is made, the producer earns money by selling the rights of the movie to distributors and exhibitors. But he first needs finances to make the movie. This is where the underground-Dubai mafia steps in (not in every case) with attendant demands from routine to the sinister – themes, agenda, star cast, you name it. Ever heard of producers borrowing money from banks or corporates? Ever heard of governments asking producers where they get the funds to make movies and to authenticate the source?
Member of Parliament Subramanian Swamy insisted earlier that the SSR was murdered being too independent and talented for the Bollywood cartel who contracted the Dubai mafia to kill him. He had called for the “cleaning” up of Bollywood like JNU! But these happenings in Bollywood have been going on under various governments that makes them complicit – remember Gulshan Kumar who was shot in broad daylight? Drugs and terror are intimately linked and no drug cartel is possible without the involvement of politicians and the police.
Bollywood being the best advertisement platform, politicians woo them for boosting their images. When “Bollywood cleanup” will happen is ambiguous because every happening in India is linked to politics. If Maharashtra today had a BJP-Shiv Sena government would this probe have been ordered? If Rs 1000 crore worth drugs are found in a house belonging to a senior IPS officer in Mumbai under the present state government, as happened in another state of the country, would he be let off as easily as was that IPS officer? The answer in both cases is no.
Big fish getting caught in the current probe is highly unlikely. Shiv Sena probably did not realize that adopting the song “Saiyan Ji Se Aaj Mein Ne Break Up Kar Liya” as party anthem could be dangerous, not that any politician will be convicted in the current probe. India is witness to periodic changes in political alignments leading to changed fortunes and all sins washed off overnight. If the sources are to be believed, this all fiasco is another political drama, in which Aryan was the bait.
Bollywood has remained the flag bearer of Indian soft power and has been part of the Indian Government’s effort to project the soft face of a secular India. Time has come to expose the Narco and drug connection of Bollywood; the international community should note that the industry at present is steeped in drug culture, this mirage of Bollywood is run by drug peddlers and illicit money launderers, who not only use the drugs in the industry but also fund it to project the soft face of so called Shining India.
By Nilabh Krishna