The ground is ready for a Bollywood clean-up

With each day of investigation into actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, more and more details of the pernicious rot pours out.

Abhijit Majumder August 30, 2020 09:12:12 IST
The ground is ready for a Bollywood clean-up

Some of my fondest discussions with my ‘source’ as a journalist were with film historian Feroze Rangoonwala.

He would tell me about a Bollywood of the past that seemed aglow in a crystal memory box. It had a strange simplicity. Famous directors, musicians and actors become wealthy, but only through hard work and extraordinary talent.

Stars like Dilip Kumar or Lata Mangeshkar would sometimes take a local train to the shooting or recording venue. The Bollywood of Feroze’s stories was different.

Feroze is no more.

The Bollywood of his stories is dead.

Ever since Mumbai’s filmdom and the underworld fell in love in the late ’70s, tell-tale traits of the crime world have entered the industry.

Drugs, guns, smuggling, sex rackets, terrorism, killing wildlife, road rage, drunk-driving, anti-national narrative-setting, daylight murders and mysterious deaths are the norm today, not exceptions.

With each day of investigation into actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, more and more details of the pernicious rot pours out.

This industry would be unrecognisable for a Raj Kapoor or Majrooh Sultanpuri or Hrishikesh Mukherjee if they were to witness it today.

The seeds of this rot were sown when don Haji Mastan got enamoured by tinsel, married a Madhubala lookalike named Sona and started investing in movies. Banks were barred from financing films till 2000, when RBI passed an amendment to recognise entertainment as a industry which could get legitimate bank credit.

The big chasm in financing was filled by the underworld. Worst damage was done through the ’80s and ’90s, when don Dawood Ibrahim reigned over Bollywood. Even after he fled to Dubai, stars fell over each other to visit him and pay obeisance. He slept with a new starlet almost every night. He presented them with expensive gifts. His word was unputdownable in the industry.

The dark, mutant DNA of today’s Bollywood comes from Dawood. Its Hinduphobia, portraying Hindu rituals as regressive and giving all other religions a free pass in films like PK, or force-fitting overtly religious Hindus as villains in series like Sacred Games, seem to flow from the mind of its former master, the architect of ’93 Mumbai serial blasts and a thousand other crimes.

Bollywood’s drug obsession, back in focus from the Sushant death investigation, is again a leaf out of the balance sheet of Dawood’s empire.

But most sinister is Mumbai’s incestuous ecosystem of politicians, mafia, businessmen, actors and directors and the police, which seem to have embarked on a desperate war of survival, cornered and exposed again and again as public fury sweeps the nation over the young actor’s extremely dubious-looking death.

This nexus has too much at stake. It has thousands of crores of business and a priceless trove of the filthiest secrets to lose. This cosy club can go to any extent to guard its dirty empire.

However, the CBI has its best team sniffing around. ED, Customs and other agencies hot on the chase. Some of the best officers with stellar Bollywood tracking record are quietly being posted in different agencies to stealthily close in. And a political family has embarked on desperate stupidity to save its own.

There is tremendous nervousness among those who brazenly broke the law and subverted truth in Bollywood. The ground under their feet is cracking. The time is ripe for a complete clean-up to begin.

Views expressed by the author are personal.

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