New Delhi: Thursday’s prime time anchors were preoccupied with footage of actor Deepika Padukone landing in Mumbai from Goa with husband Ranveer Singh, after the Narcotics Control Bureau summoned her for questioning. Zee News‘ Sachin Arora did talk about the farmers’ agitation against the recently passed Bills, but only after he asked, inexplicably, “Who is the hero of Deepika’s drugs leela?”, a reference to the actor’s 2013 movie, Goliyon ki Raasleela Ram-Leela.
On News Nation, anchor Deepak Chaurasia declared, “The strings of Bollywood’s drug gang have been slowly unravelled. The company that indulged in drug chats with A-list stars and provided them with drugs is the same as the one which has emerged prominently in connection with the money laundering case against Rhea Chakraborty — KWAN talent company.” All this said with complete conviction, but without facts.
“Links of stars like Aamir Khan with the company have also emerged,” Chaurasia said. “The company, which called itself a talent management company, has now emerged as a drug manager,” the anchor decided.
Republic TV‘s Arnab Goswami held yet another debate on the alleged Bollywood-drug nexus, using the hashtag #ShameBollywoodDruggies.
“Jaya Bachchan has abused her position as a Member of Parliament to make a case for an industry which is steeped and drowning in narcotics,” he opened his segment.
BJP national spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia said the NCB is right to go after certain actors in order to “eliminate rotten apples”, and singer Jaspinder Narula made calls for a “Swachh Industry” in line with PM Modi’s Swachh Bharat mission.
Goswami also boasted about his credentials: “When did I ever say I’m neutral? I’m always biased towards the truth.” Just in case there was any confusion.
Tanvi Shukla of Mirror Now took another approach to the Bollywood brouhaha and asked, “Is this a witch hunt or is this a genuine clean-up that is much welcomed?”
Arguing that it was a witch hunt, filmmaker Fauzia Arshi said, “This is the failure of our system that they are not able to catch the root from where these drugs are supplied… What’s the agenda behind targeting these people?”
Former Director General of the NCB B.V. Kumar agreed: “NCB should have gone up to the peddlers…and not come down on the consumers.” He added that the NCB had “lost its objective”.
Meanwhile, former DGP of Maharashtra Dr P.S. Pasricha examined the legality of actors’ WhatsApp chats being made public. “Even if the WhatsApp chats have been legally obtained, the leaking of this information to the media…can have serious legal issues and WhatsApp can be sued,” he said.
CNN-News18‘s Zakka Jacob could barely contain his approval of the way things are proceeding. Apart from asking, based on no evidence, if Karan Johar would be next, Jacob expanded the debate to a larger question of how the summoning of Padukone and other actors shows that the law is being applied to everyone.
In a major generalisation, he reminded viewers that “Bollywood celebrities have driven over poor people sleeping on a pavement in Bandra and gotten away with it” and that India is now growing weary of the “raja and rank attitude”.
However, actor and activist Kunickaa Sadanand criticised the way the law was being carried out. “The [WhatsApp] chats should not have been put in public domain… We have to respect everyone’s privacy — raja ho ya rank.”
Lawyer Vikas Gupta highlighted another point: “If this is the way the investigation is to be carried on by calling all the consumers to the NCB office, then this will go on for 1,000 years.”
Anchor Sachin Arora began Zee News’ special edition of `Taal Thok Ke’ by asking — “Who is the hero of Deepika’s drugs leela?” Could someone explain the question?
Arora then moved on to other news, mentioning the Uttar Pradesh government’s call to put up posters of those accused of crimes against women, before discussing the three-day ‘Rail Roko’ agitation of farmers in Punjab against the government’s farm bills. “There has been continuous fake news on social media, posted in a bid to provoke the farmers. “The big question is — by provoking farmers, doing chakka jam, stopping trains, what benefit is it actually bringing to these farmers?”
“Are the farmers being used as pawns in politics?” he continued.
The BJP’s Nalin Kohli said, “We will win the battle by telling the farmers the truth. Modiji and his government are with all sections of the society — the poor, the farmers, the Dalits.”
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.