Hyderabad drug racket: Ram Gopal Varma alleges interrogations are publicity stunts
Hyderabad: Leading filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma has accused the Prohibition and Excise Department of Telangana of targeting Tollywood celebrities in a drug racket case, but a top official trashed his allegation.
Varma, known for his controversial statements, said the department was using the film industry to make its existence felt.
He also wondered if the Special Investigation Team (SIT) will question school children who were using the drugs like they were grilling celebrities for hours.
"I am very much wondering if the school children taking drugs also will be summoned by SIT and interrogated for 12 hours like they are doing to Poori Jagannathan and Subba Raju ... just asking?," he stated in a Facebook post.
"Of course everyone kind of knows it exists but first time everyone actually heard about this department only because they are using the film industry as a teaser trailer for people to come to know their existence," he said.
"Whatever the actual truth of the drugs matter, the law in its own course might tell or not tell, but for the moment Akun Sabharwal is being projected like Amarendra Bahubali by the media... Maybe SS Rajamouli should make Baahubali 3 with him," he remarked, sarcastically referring to the Director, Enforcement, Prohibition and Excise Department.
The film director's remarks drew flak from many people, who vent their feelings on social media.
"Nobody is denying the integrity of Sabharwal or his department but even without any charges or conclusive proof to allow the media leaks to destroy the reputations of people apart from causing distress to their families is highly deplorable," replied Varma.
The filmmaker's comments evoked condemnation from R Chandravadan, Commissioner, Prohibition and Excise. He said it was unfortunate that some people were making comments which were demoralising for the officials.
Chandravadan said the department had taken the drug racket seriously and was investigating it from all angles within the legal framework. He said the officials were following the Supreme Court guidelines.
The official said the film personalities should act responsibly and added that the investigating team was getting cooperation.
SIT has summoned a dozen Tollywood celebrities for questioning. Director Puri Jagannadh, cinematographer Shyam K Naidu and actor Subbaraju were grilled over three days. Actor Tarun was being questioned on Saturday, 22 July.
The film personalities are being questioned about any drug dependence or whether they had any links with the accused arrested in the case.
Telugu actor Tarun had appeared before the SIT probing the Hyderabad drug racket on Saturday, officials said.
Accompanied by his father Chakrapani, the actor reached Abkari Bhavan, the office of Prohibition and Excise Department of Telangana at around 10 am on 22 July.
A team of SIT officials continued questioning Tollywood celebrities for a fourth consecutive days. Tarun, one of the 12 celebrities to be served notice by SIT, has already denied taking drugs or having links with the accused arrested in the case.
The actor, famous for Nuvve Kavali (2000), had opened a pub in 2009 in Banjara Hills area of Hyderabad. As the role of pubs in drug peddling came under scanner in the past, he had sold his stakes.
The investigating officials had interrogated actor Subbaraju for 13 hours on Friday, 21 July. The actor, known for his negative roles in many films, provided leads to SIT for further investigations. Subbaraju reportedly revealed names of 10 film personalities.
SIT had questioned director Puri Jagannadh on Wednesday, 20 July, and cinematographer Shyam K. Naidu on the next day.
The celebrities were summoned for questioning as their contact numbers were found in the call data of Calvin Mascrenhas, the kingpin of the racket.
Actors Ravi Teja, Navdeep, and Nandu; actresses Charmee Kaur and Mumaith Khan; art director Chinna are among the other celebrities who will be questioned next week.
The enforcement wing of the department has so far arrested 13 accused, including US citizen Dundu Anish -- an aerospace engineer who had earlier worked with the NASA, and seven BTech graduates, most of whom were working for multi-national companies.