The witch-hunt and arrest of Rhea Chakraborty for ‘drug peddling’ as part of a ‘drug syndicate’ has elicited little comment from Bollywood. It’s odd that three powerful agencies, namely the CBI, ED and the NCB, should investigate a minor actress in—according to the NCB itself—a case, which normally it wouldn’t investigate. These agencies handle serious criminal, financial and anti-national crimes. All political parties in election-charged Bihar are exulting for getting ‘Justice for Sushant’ who had been smoking weed himself.
Due to the Omerta code in Bollywood, the capi di tutti capi have stayed schtum ever since Sushant hanged himself. Neither has Rhea’s media lynching, egged on by news television goondas, been commented on by the Shah Rukh, Aamir and Salman Khans, Aditya Chopra, Karan Johar et al. The viral clip of a TV anchor rolling up his sleeves and doing a macabre ‘drugs de do’ meme is the ugliest trope in media history. Godfather cultists will agree that the conscience of consigliore anchors is “sleeping with the fishes.” So are the scruples of Bollywood Don Corleones. The silent era in the Indian film industry never went away.
Ironically most Indian film plots celebrate the wronged woman’s victory. The heroes defend and protect her with singham action and immortal lines like ‘kutte kamine mein tera khoon pee jaoonga’. If only B-town was true to its screenplays, Rhea wouldn’t be as alone as she is now. The human sacrifice of a 28-year-old actress on the altar of poll politics wouldn’t have been possible if Bollywood had risen up as one. Hindi cinema influences the way Indians speak, dress, sing and dance.
It has a unique chance to change the Indian perspective against trial by media and political skullduggery. But it won’t. There are skeletons in their closets. Aditya Pancholi and son were accused of rape; a girl committed suicide. Salman Khan and Ekta Kapoor have been raided by Income Tax. Ketan Parekh, who was arrested in a billion-dollar scam, was the toast at A-lister star parties; he helped Mumbai production houses make dirty money. The voyeurism of the audience shows how far we’ve fallen as a nation to escape grim reality.
Stars get into Parliament at the fag end of their careers after cultivating political parties. Only outsider Kangana Ranaut has broken the privilege ceiling. The Cosa Nostra of cinema is afraid of her and investigating agencies, which could scrutinise coke-snorting, alcohol-fuelled, rehab and hawala lifestyles. There is a lesson in this. Solidarity means standing by the little guy. The big guys won’t.The sorority of Hollywood actresses during the Harvey Weinstein episode initially stirred up the Indian film industry. Soon, offers dried up for actors who spoke up. Aamir Khan signed up a #metoo named-and-shamed individual. The careers of Rajkumar Hirani and Nana Patekar didn’t suffer. Let’s face it. Bollywood is any other establishment like politics or business.
This too will pass once the Bihar elections are over. Rhea will get bail. She may even be vindicated. News anchors will look for more victims. Rhea will be a footnote in the narrative of victimhood. A new film in which the hero saves the girl from goondas is coming soon to theatres near you.