What started off as a rather grotesque ‘Theatre of the Absurd’ has rapidly degenerated into a dark comedy or horror show. Tell me — is there nothing worse happening in India besides Bollywood stars doing drugs? Or is there a sinister pattern emerging, as several alert critics have been pointing out — are our so-called ‘neutral’ government agencies merely doing their (hit) jobs by targeting top stars and minor players, in their unseemly rush to ‘clean up’ showbiz? Why are they hand-picking these particular stars and not several others who may be equally guilty? Getting Deepika Padukone to abort her shooting schedule and show up meekly when summoned to the Colaba guesthouse of the NCB is a surefire way to burn up social media, stay in the headlines and dominate television prime time. The ‘nautanki’ of the NCB knows no limits! That goes for prime-time anchors, too. They seem to be high on something more potent than the power of TRPs. Come on — viewers are done with the ‘ghisa-pita’ stretched out story about ganja-smoking stars. How much longer are you going to flog it?
Everyone has realised it is no longer about SSR, or Rhea or any of those associated with SSR’s death. It is now an insane shikaar to selectively implicate big names from Bollywood in an effort to: a) divert national attention from ‘unimportant’ crises, fiscal, legal, and Covid-related issues; b) assume control of Bollywood through intimidation and threats. The second aspect is very important, given the incredible, almost immeasurable influence of Bollywood on the nation’s imagination. The long-term benefits of insidiously taking over the lives and content of India’s vibrant entertainment industry are obvious. Apart from the monetary angle, it is the idea of entertainment itself that’s at stake.
When a concerted effort is made to paint a terrible picture of an entire industry by picking on high-profile, successful targets, the government machinery effectively chokes free cinematic expression and sends out a strong message to those who aren’t willing to kneel down and surrender to the state. This form of pressurising is being witnessed across other cultural platforms — in the rewriting of our history books, renaming of heritage sites, restructuring of institutions and the gagging of media. Bollywood had been spared so far. But the SSR case provided the perfect alibi to muscle in and hijack an entire subculture that has spoken the language of India’s masses for over a hundred years.
This is an opportunity to move in swiftly (timing is everything), using the smokescreen of massive ‘drug abuse’ and smoothly taking control. Once it’s a done deal, all those self-righteous fellows strutting around with a holier-than-thou attitude will disappear into the woodwork, not to be seen again. Hatchet job complete. Mission accomplished.
Yes, there are Bollywood A-listers who do drugs. So do B-grade politicians. And sadhus. And businessfolk. And traders. Many others. I mean, drug use is not Bollywood’s vice exclusively. Why has not even a single politician’s name emerged? These are the same netas who party with their Bollywood buddies and try desperately to project a ‘kya kool hai hum’ vibe. Do you mean to say they sip Thums Up and avoid coke at cosy private bashes where they are regulars? Get real. Everybody in the glamourous Juhu-Bandra party circuit can provide countless stories about these high-living politicians. Surely the same rule applies to them? But that’s naïve thinking. The agenda is far bigger than nabbing a Deepika or Sara or Shraddha. It is about making them prime examples and sending out a menacing message to other popular Bollywood players — play ball henceforth, varna… varna kya? Varna, lots! No wonder half of Bollywood has gone into hiding, wondering when their NCB summons will arrive.
Just like the other ‘opium of the masses’ —cricket — is firmly in the hands of politicians, their sons and other industrialists from the same camp, Bollywood too will find itself gheraoed by these very greedy, grasping netas who will not just milk it as a business but also alter its very composition. Watch! Bollywood is poised to become India’s most potent propaganda machine. Already one can see the polarisation taking place smoothly and seamlessly, with favoured stars/producers/writers getting feted and rewarded for pushing supposedly patriotic/mythological films and crushing the competition. One can safely predict the names of Bollywood stars who will line up for Padma awards in 2021. Using a Bollywood tragedy to influence Bihar elections is just testing the waters for the big bang to come — the total takeover and makeover of Bollywood.
Wait a minute. So far, the main targets in the NCB probe seem to be women. What about the men? Dekho, women make softer targets and create better photo-ops. Perhaps the NCB fellows really believe women are easier to scare. How wrong they are! Try picking up those muscled heroes and watch them squirm and squeal. Himmat hai?
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.