It’s not been quite two weeks when Jaya Bachchan whipped up, yet another debate (if that’s what one can call it) in Parliament, in a rather shouty voice that usually comes when pressing on an old bruise. She went foghorn loud fuming over how the film industry was being targetted, accused of peddling and consuming drugs, that too by members of the same fraternity. Supposedly it was the broad range of thoughts articulated by Ravi Kishan, an MP from the BJP and a renowned actor as well, that made Jayaji hit the ceiling. Or in actuality, was it Kangana Ranaut, post Sushant Singh Rajput’s death relentlessly going on and on, without coming up for a breather, roaring from a mountain-top, that Bollywood was full of Dopeheads, and no high-end party went without the heavy consumption of drugs that were worth lakhs and lakhs of rupees?! But back to Ravi Kishan, he was not making any monstrous attack on Bollywood. Yes, he conceded, that there were no or perhaps, a few Smackheads in the 1980s and 1990s, but over the past decade, a drug nexus had infiltrated not only the film world but the entire nation. A conspiracy was at large to wrought havoc on our youth thereby, with rapid relentlessness bringing India on its knees …Still am trying to figure out Jaya’s towering rage, her being so incensed that yesteryear’s Dream Girl—who belies her 70-odd years, retaining her ethereal beauty—Hema Malini had to speak up as well. Afterall, she too, was a Member of Parliament and had to render her support to Ms Bahaduri. Pardon me, slip of the tongue, ‘Bachchan’. Hema had been a heroine to Amitabh in a number of films, surely the need of the hour was not to keep mum. Speaking of the sounds of silence, rather peculiar, that after Rajput’s death, our top actors who tweet on everything, come rain or shine, had no comment regarding his supposed substance abuse. Or that his live-in partner, Rhea Chakraborty, was in a thriving drug liaison readily supplying dope to her boyfriend. These top-notch actors became tongue-tied or something more like, the cat bit your tongue?! In a TV interview Hema speaks of Bollywood’s immense contribution to the world of art. No doubt on that front, but when asked about film parties being less about hors d’ oeuvres, wine and music, she off-handedly informs the anchor that she had no idea—being not a part of the party scene! However, the truth of the matter, to my 2+2=4 understanding is that it all started with Kangana Ranaut, soon after Rajput was found dead. Foul play, she cried early on, going as far to, with smouldering fury, spew she’d return her National Award, if the actor’s death was not investigated. Murder, she cried! No suicide was it, she emphatically claimed. She spoke, in her quintessential style, without mincing words, about the Dil Bechara star’s state spurred on by his head turned inside out as his chai, juice, soup or whatever, was being laced with drugs. Undoubtedly, Kangana is a headline grabber so whatever she says, or does, is naturally going to be brewed beyond boiling point…But this actress does have a point.

Was Sushant driven to depression, was he given drugs sometimes knowingly and at other times on the sly either to calm him down or to cause hallucinations? Little purpose would be served in rewinding the sequence of his suicide or murder, yet it—certainly does send one in a flap to think that a 5-finger exercise of how he died—remains a mystery, unsolved even a good three months after his being no more. Police-mafia tie-in?! Or if one thinks not, then should not the Mumbai police hang their heads in shame for their lackadaisical conduct and pull up their socks or better, turn in their badges?! But if the cops, think that twiddling their fingers is all that they can do, since to go idiomatic, ‘the local fire station burnt down last week’, should they not be pelted by a rain of bullets?! Some dizzying questions unstoppably, almost feverishly have been doing the rounds of my mind. (Talk of pedestrians wearing out roads!) Supposing, Sushant was a Junkie, then how is it that in his recently released movies, Chhichhore and Dil Bechara  (the latter, with double irony at play, had him die in the film post his demise in real life…) he displays such verve, such enthusiasm, acting skills portraying a panorama of emotions, not over-the-top-expressions, but nuanced, subtle ones if he was stoned from head to toe?! And how is it that he had a sculpted, well-toned body that can only be acquired after regular, disciplined exercise and a special diet, designed to remain fit and healthy?! The body, the temple of the mind?! And it definitely is not a walk in the park galore with caroling larks, fragrant roses and precious orchids to memorise dialogues for getting into the skin of the character, so much so that one becomes the character?! Remember,  M.S. Dhoni, the Untold Story? It is said that Dhoni was so taken in by Sushant’s portrayal of him, down to the slight swivel of his waist while swinging the bat from varied angles, depending on the pitch and the spin of the ball, to his facial expressions, that he, Sushant, had flawlessly, pristinely cloned him. This actor was self-made, had no Godfather and in a short span managed to, as they say, ‘Live life King Size’. Brushing him aside, however, can any actor, director, technician etc. & etc. be on a surplus of drugs, to the extent that once the affect wears off and tremors set in, the Acidhead needs more of more to sustain himself?! The question is how in this inebriated, hallucinatory condition does one drag oneself out of bed, leave alone do Bollywood somersaulting stunts and John Travolta’s ‘Saturday Night Fever’ dancing?! Is it not so, that ordinary mortals like us, are blurry-brained if say we have had that extra goblet of wine?!  Forget about liquor, or how about a 5-day course of antibiotics making one nauseous, finding it hard to get through the day?! Or going on an eating spree of glutted-in-ghee food, what about that acidulated indisposition?!

Back to Bollywood. Definitely not laughing off that more than a handful consume but…but, ‘with a give us our daily bread’ religiosity?!    If so, cinema, would have long back, made its way to its comatose grave. And who does not know, ‘To live like a King, one has to work like a Slave…’

Dr Renée Ranchan writes on socio-psychological issues, quasi-political matters and concerns that touch us all.