Deepika Padukone and Bollywood A-Listers on the Radar: How the #SSRDeathProbe is No Longer about SSR!
With various sections of electronic and social media busy painting Bollywood as a sordid pro-Islam, pro-Naxal, pro-drug mafia industry teeming with dirty secrets, the SSR case is fast degenerating into a Bollywood-bashing affair. Nothing more. Deepika Padukone, smoky-eyed and tousled-haired, gyrating away to glory in the 2011 remix of “Dum Maaro Dum” has suddenly acquired a strange irony. The actor has been summoned for questioning on 26 September by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) after her name cropped up in drug-related WhatsApp chats dating back to 2017. In the collective imagination of the Sushant-loving, Bollywood-hating band, it’s almost as if the real Deepika Padukone herself, not the actor, were singing the song, living its racy lyrics to the hilt.
As investigations into the mysterious death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput (SSR) continue to meander, Deepika Padukone is the latest big fish caught in the ever-expanding fishnet of the probe. When SSR’s talent manager Jaya Saha was questioned by the NCB on 21 September, no-one (except maybe Arnab Goswami and gang?) expected so many big names to tumble out of Tinseltown. Apart from Deepika, actors Shraddha Kapoor, Sara Ali Khan, Rakul Preet Singh have been summoned for questioning. So have designer Simone Khambatta, Shruti Modi (former business manager of SSR), Karishma Prakash (manager of Deepika Padukone), and producer Madhu Mantena – who, in another crowning irony, co-produced Udta Punjab, a movie on the prevailing drug problem in Punjab. The latest scoop is that Jaya Saha has disclosed the names of four, A-grade male actors who may shortly be sent summons.
The Fishermen’s Frenzy
With more big fish waiting to get “caught”, the fishermen going into a frenzy is but natural, no?
It is scarcely an overstatement that the SSR death case has become the broth the Indian media loves to add spice, salt, and grease to. Alas, the latest revelations have presented yet another opportunity to stir in spice, the hottest and most piquant of them all.
Ever since the SSR death case was turned into a political slugfest – the Maharashtra coalition government versus the opposition BJP government — Bollywood has become social and electronic media’s pet whipping boy. Interestingly, the probe, now controlled by central agencies NCB, CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation), and Enforcement Directorate, is only throwing up revelations that fit neatly into that stale, facile narrative of big, bad Bollywood being dominated by debauched, drug-addicted dynasts who are hostile to powerless outsiders such as SSR.
It’s the Kangana-esque, Goswami-esque tale with a most predictable plot line and heroes and villains so hackneyed, you’ll want to roll your eyes in exasperation.
As the media madness around the case reaches a crescendo, we’ll witness more crassness in the following weeks:
One hundred percent vindicated, “nationalist” actor Kangana Ranaut will soldier on, sending out provocatively smug tweets and statements.
The likes of Arnab Goswami will carry on with their horrendous histrionics in the name of “breaking news” and debates.
Lockdown-weary social media users will continue their self-righteous diatribes against Bollywood (of course, they won’t stop watching the latest Bollywood releases on Netflix, but that’s another story). The bigger the celebrities in trouble, the greater the vulgarity of the triumphalism that’ll follow.
Watch: at 12.5 through 7.04
Meanwhile, with Bihar Director General of Police (DGP) Gupteshwar Pandey having announced his voluntary retirement this week, rumours are already afloat of him contesting the upcoming election in Bihar on a BJP ticket. The oddly convenient timing of his retirement and entry into politics has been pointed out by Maharashra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant as well as incarcerated actor Rhea Chakraborty‘s lawyer Satish Maneshinde.
If there is indeed a wisp of truth in these rumours, the quid pro quo is simple enough to understand — the gentleman who criticized the Mumbai police, and insisted on a separate inquiry and CBI investigation in the SSR case is now clearly being rewarded for doing the BJP’s bidding.
#justiceforSSR, Where Art Thou?!
With celebrity names and multiple angles rendering the waters of the investigation turbid, the actual truth behind SSR’s sudden demise is becoming hazier by the day. In other words, #justiceforSSR — the popular social media campaign cum crusade with which this unearthing business commenced in the first place — is conspicuous by its absence. With various sections of electronic and social media busy painting Bollywood as a sordid pro-Islam, pro-Pakistan, pro-Naxal, pro-drug mafia industry teeming with dirty secrets, the whole thing is fast degenerating into a Bollywood-bashing affair. Nothing else. Nothing more.
So, who gets to gain what from this drama?
For the ever-obsequious media, it’s only a matter of following the political paymaster’s orders. Besides, higher TRP ratings never hurt anyone. And while unemployment is burgeoning and the economy sinking, this interminable nonsense is a good way to keep the mostly idle residents of Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities meaningfully distracted and purposefully occupied.
As far as the apparently beleaguered celebrities are concerned, the odds are low that the damage will last beyond a few months. Sanjay Dutt was charged with far more serious crimes but it scarcely made a difference to his box office record in the nineties (remember Khalnayak and Vaastav?) Likewise, Salman Khan, despite all that bad publicity generated by the blackbuck incident and road accident case, continued ruling the box office.
In other words, the NCB summons aren’t going to be the death knell for the careers of Deepika Padukone, Shraddha Kapoor, and Sara Ali Khan. Besides, they’ve merely been summoned; conviction may not even take place.
Meanwhile, every pressing national issue – farmers’ agitation, mounting COVID-19 death toll, growing unemployment, brewing border crisis – has been slyly sidelined and furtively placed on the backburner. Not unlike #justiceforSSR. Rest in peace, SSR. And rest in peace, justice.