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Panicked Bollywood

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The controversy over Sushant Singh Rajput’s death has segued into a social media debate over the use of narcotics in Bollywood. Member of the cinema world’s ‘first family’ and Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan has taken umbrage at BJP MP Ravi Kishan’s expression of concern in this regard, classifying it as ingratitude. It is strange and obviously political to deliberately overlook revelations of widespread drug use in the film world. Surely, Jaya Bachchan cannot claim this does not happen, or seek absolution for the industry because it also happens elsewhere. The list of charges against Bollywood is just piling up from the initial allegations of nepotism, money-laundering, sexual misconduct to drug abuse. Kangana Ranaut has been targeted by the Shiv Sena and its loudest mouth Sanjay Raut for having the gumption to expose these faults. Others, including some starlets, have lined up on the side of the establishment, forgetting for the time being all that feminism they swore by earlier.

Some apologists have scoffed at disclosures about recovery of ‘small’ amounts of weed, declaring more would be normally found in a college hostel room. It is true that cannabis used to be legal before India succumbed to the pressure of the West to ban it, but anybody who knows anything about ‘recreational’ drugs would testify that it also serves as a ‘gateway’ drug. The situation is made worse by the fact that this relatively harmless drug is illegal. Young people begin to think breaking the law is an innocuous act so think nothing of moving on to the hardcore stuff. As a first, therefore, all those wanting a change should demand legalisation of marijuana and its cousins, so that an important distinction can be made.

Why is it that the political and industry big-wigs in Mumbai are unwilling to even examine the possibility of widespread drug abuse? Is it that they benefit from this eco-system? If they were truly ‘loyal’ to Mumbai for what it has given them, would they be so averse to fixing its problems? Considering that the film-industry rarely ever hesitates to project other institutions in bad light, why has it become so sensitive about its own shortcomings? Has the steep decline in the quality of movies got something to do with these endemic problems? Are the few superstars afraid their monopolistic hold will be broken? Or, as is alleged by some, are they just puppets in the hands of powerful criminals based in other parts of the world? The nation would surely like to know.