Saturday, August 13th, 2022 15:04:03

Does Bollywood Culture Glamourise Drug Abuse?

By Dr Suresh Kumar Agrawal
Updated: November 24, 2021 8:59 am

Culture of Addiction may be either a necessity of the poor or a privilege of the rich and escapade for the creative souls. The fact of the matter is that drugs and alcohol are celebrated in the Bollywood world _ alcoholics and drug addicts even more. Today most of the Bollywood world is into drugs and alcohol.

Drug misuse is a pervasive phenomenon in the Bollywood world. In India, cannabis (including Bhang, Ganja and Charas), heroin and opium are the most commonly used drugs, but there is an increasing prevalence of methamphetamine too. The number of users who inject drugs has also gone up substantially. There are around one million heroin users registered in India, with the overall estimate running to five million users. About 2.8 percent of Indians aged 10-75(3.1 crore individuals) consume cannabis. These users are from all strata of society, spread all across the country. Why is it then that Bollywood and its Stars are blamed for the exponential increase in drug abuse? Only Delhi has more than 25,000 school going girls and boys addicted to drugs. Shouldn’t the States, Society, Schools and Parents be held accountable for the school-going kids getting addicted to drugs? How can anyone blame the Bollywood for increasing addiction amongst the youth in such a situation?

It seems that the use of Substance has become ingrained in our cultures. Only a negligible number can imagine any celebration event from child’s birth to grandfather’s birthday to political events to religious events without beer vendors or a wedding without a champagne toast, Bollywood Fashions, Bollywood Songs and Bollywood Dance. However, the acceptance of drugs has rippled from films and music where addiction is glamourized and romanticized to an extent that the drug and alcohol become compulsive, for one is bombarded by casual use of drugs and alcohol in movies and music. An American Survey regarding the barrage of drug and alcohol use throughout the entertainment industry has brought to light some shocking facts. It has revealed that drugs are present in nearly half of all music videos including alcohol (35 percent), tobacco (10 percent) and illicit drugs (13 percent). Second, one drinking scene is shown on television every 22 minutes, one smoking scene every 57 minutes and one illicit drug use scene every 112 minutes. Third, 71 percent of prime-time television programs depict alcohol use, 20 percent mention illicit drug use and 3 percent depict illicit drug use. Fourth, more than 1/3 of all Drinking Scenes on Television Shows are humorous, while less than ¼ of the Drinking Scenes show any negative consequences. Fifth, the average teenager is exposed to nearly 85 percent drug references a day in popular music. Sixth, 40 percent of profiles on Social Networking Websites reference Substance abuse. Further, the Sociological Studies have revealed that Movies, TV and Music can strongly influence the decision of children and adolescents as well as adults. The actions of Celebrities have a major impact on our life style.

The recent Neuroscience Researches have discovered that exposure to Movie depictions of alcohol predicts early onset of Drinking and Binge Drinking in adolescents; that increased consumption of popular music is associated with Marijuana use; that the teens who watch adult Movies are six times more likely to try Marijuana; that the teens who spend time on a Social Networking Site are twice as likely to use marijuana than teens who do not visit these Sites, and that the decisions of Celebrities can greatly influence the Public health decisions. It is proved from the fact that during the COVID-19 many Celebrities posted their photos holidaying in the Maldives and no sooner were the travel restrictions lifted, the Island was flooded with young, middle-class Indian tourists.

Media devote hours and pages covering Celebrities lifestyles and Parties hosted or attended by them. Ingrained in the lifestyle of Bollywood Celebrities are heavy drinking, illicit drug use and risky behavior. The problem for Commonalities is that all this reaches them with a lot of pressure and judgement from others. Not everyone is successfully able to cope with it, and as a consequence they turn to drugs or alcohol instead. Besides, many artists sing about drug use and almost seem to be bragging, that glamourize and promote alcohol and drugs abuse amongst the youth.

The Bollywood Celebrities including singers, rappers and actors have a tendency for drug use. We see it in Television shows, Movies, Music Videos and the documented social behaviors of Bollywood Celebrities. The Celebrities’ personal content on Social- Media, for example when Miley Cyprus posts photos of herself on Instagram using hashtags such as ‘#drugaddict#’ and ‘#alcoholic#’ or rappers Wiz Khafia and Snoop Dogg constantly post and discuss their affinity towards Marijuana- causes normalization of drug abuse.

Whether drug abuse is blatant or serves a Storyline- for some of the artists believe that “if you take out intoxication from art, most of the art will be uncreated”, a scary fact shared by one of the Senior Creative Director, while rolling a Marijuana Joint (a Cultural Shock for the person like me)- is certainly debatable, it certainly prompts the question- “Hasn’t the Bollywood Culture glamourized drug abuse in India?” The answer is certainly “Yes”, for even the mention of Bollywood brings to one’s mind the Celebrities with a glamorous lifestyle, money, parties, designer clothes, luxury cars sex and addiction. Celebrities are often seen in social activities that involve luxurious Outings, Appearances at Clubs, Parties, Paid Vacations, etc. Drugs and alcohol are common to all these events/outings. This influences the adolescents and they are led to believe that success earns one the right to confidentially engage in Substance use, and since Celebrities consume drugs and alcohol and it has not derailed their lives, it won’t adversely affect their own.

While India along with the rest of the world, grapples with the New- Normal in the Post-Covid era, Bollywood has had to do some purging of its own in the wake of the upheavals that have rocked the industry since last year. Sushant Singh Rajput’s death opened a Can of Worms. Then Kangana Ranaut’s Tweets asking B-town’s A- listers to give their blood samples have added fuel to the fire. And then a string of Celebs- Deepika Padukone, Sara Ali Khan, Rakul Preet Singh- was interrogated by NCB (Narcotics Control bureau) to examine their alleged involvement in drug rackets. A little over a year, just as the psychedelic dust was settling and Bollywood was looking forward to returning to theatres, a prominent star kid was arrested from a cruise-ship in a drugs-bust on 2 October. A psychotropic blitzkrieg was released from pandora’s box, all over again. It restarted the age-old debate- “Why the Bollywood Young Guns indulge in Substance abuse? Now, Shahrukh Khan and Aryan Khan must agree that this has brought the Bollywood World in the global gaze with allegations of drug addictions and debauchery surfacing.

As a matter of fact, Bollywood is at the center of all the media spotlight. It is, therefore, wise that the Celebrities behave responsibly and present social conduct which inspire the adolescents to be creative, and the film-makers comprising the whole film-industry officialdom ensure that they don’t glamourize or normalize drug abuse. The Bollywood World needs to understand that the problem is not drugs or alcohol, it is dealing with life and reality which people cannot handle. Besides, they also need to free themselves from the ‘make-belief’ that Weed consumption helps elevate lateral creativity in an individual’s mind


By Dr Suresh Kumar Agrawal

(The writer is Professor & Head, Department of English, Maharaja Ganga Singh University, Bikaner.)

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