Kannada Cinema and Drugs: Celluloid Field’s Gravest Crisis and a CM Worried About State’s Image
Ragini Dwivedi (Image: Facebook)

Ragini Dwivedi (Image: Facebook)

The shocking details of drug abuse among actors has virtually divided the struggling celluloid world. Some are calling it a vendetta to paint the entire field with the same brush while the others are demanding a total clean-up of the silver screen.

  • CNN-News18 Bengaluru
  • Last Updated: September 5, 2020, 11:22 PM IST

Kannada cinema is facing an existential crisis, a crisis of a different kind. The ongoing police raids on cinema stars to bust the drug rackets operating in the state and the arrest of actor Ragini Dwivedi have shocked the film industry, which is already going through its worst phase due to the coronavirus pandemic. The shocking details of the drug abuse among actors has virtually divided the struggling celluloid world. Some are calling it a vendetta to paint the entire field with the same brush while the others are demanding a total cleanup of the silver screen.

The 85-year-old Kannada cinema was highly conservative two decades ago. Globalisation, satellite television boom, and the growth of Bengaluru into a megapolis changed that and made the industry vulnerable to outside influence.

Meanwhile, worried about the effect of the negative publicity on the brand image of Karnataka due to the ongoing raids, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa has cautioned the police to exercise restraint. According to a senior police officer, Yediyurappa does not want Karnataka to go the Punjab way.

After a six-month lockdown and the near collapse of the cinema industry, a few had resumed shooting just a month ago, raising some hopes. The raids and arrests have come as a rude shock to many who have nothing to do with the drug menace.

It all started last week, with a Narcotics branch of Bengaluru Police raiding an apartment to bust a drug racket. They arrested three persons, including an alleged woman drug peddler identified as D Anika.

According to the police, she spilled the beans on the drugs and cinema nexus. The 24/7 television news coverage it has garnered during the current coronavirus-dominated news cycle appears to have forced the police to go after everyone allegedly linked to cartels.

In the last week, the police have arrested Dwivedi; her friend Ravishankar; Rahul, a friend of another actor Sanjana Galrani; a local BJP worker Karthik Raju; and a Delhi-based rave party organiser Viren Khanna in connection with the case.

The list is likely to grow as the sleuths have recovered a lot of details from those arrested about the extent of the drug menace plaguing the industry. Many more stars are likely to be summoned for questioning based on these explosive documents. Some of them may even face arrest.

Kannada filmmaker Indrajit Lankesh, currently with the BJP, and self-proclaimed filmmaker Prashant Sambargi have come out in the public alleging large-scale drug abuse in the celluloid world. Their statements have angered a larger section of the Kannada cinema for trying to paint the whole industry with the same brush.

Veteran film producer Sandesh Nagaraj criticised the hyper publicity. “There may be a few actors linked to drug abuse. Their number is just 1%. Because of that, branding the entire industry bad is dangerous. I request the leading stars to come out and defend the innocent,” he said.

Nagaraj said after the death of thespian Rajkumar and two other superstars, Vishnuvardhan and Ambareesh, the Kannada cinema is like a boat adrift on the sea.

A few argue that actors from outside Karnataka in the last two decades have destroyed the reputation of the industry by indulging in all kinds of immoral, unethical and illegal activities, leading the film world to a certain ruin.

The city police who have decided to go all out to eradicate the drug menace are also facing a dilemma. Yediyurappa and many others are worried about the fallout. “He is worried, because he does not want the entire state to get a bad name. Police should exercise caution before making a huge show of it. Karnataka is not certainly another Punjab. Media should also show responsibility and restraint,” said a person close to Yediyurappa.

Meanwhile, the opposition Congress is gleefully sharing pictures and videos of Dwivedi with Yediyurappa’s younger son BY Vijayendra, who is also the state BJP vice-president. Dwivedi was a star campaigner for the ruling BJP in last year’s Assembly by-polls.

Despite the CM’s instructions to his party colleagues not to comment on the ongoing raids, many of them are falling over each other to demand strict action against the drug menace. Surprisingly, the low-profile Home Minister Basavaraj S Bommai has suddenly become hyperactive, directing the police investigation, leading to a lot of speculation in political circles.

Will Kannada cinema come out of this crisis or will it sink deeper into the abyss?

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