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POST TIME: 31 July, 2021 08:54:20 PM / LAST MODIFIED: 31 July, 2021 11:44:07 PM
DATELINE INDIA: The heroes have fallen
Guilty as he may be or may not be, it would, however, be unfair to single out Kundra in this ongoing saga of sleaze. He is a player but a minor one. There are big guns involved as was evident with top names linked to the drug cartel following actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death.
Kumkum Chadha

DATELINE INDIA: The heroes have fallen

The sleaze in Bollywood continues. There is no stopping the skeletons crumbling out of the closet and one is still counting.
There is a recent and there is a latest: the first when Bollywood was in focus following the suicide or murder of actor Sushant Singh Rajput and the latest being the porn films actor Shilpa Shetty’s husband, Raj Kundra, is alleged to be creating to fill coffers.
Kundra was taken into custody in a case related to the alleged creation of pornographic films and publishing them through some apps. The Police arrested Kundra on July 19, booking him under sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Information Technology Act.
The police have alleged that the 45-year-old businessman was gaining financially from the illegal activity of making and selling pornographic content.
Earlier this year, the Police had arrested five people for allegedly forcing women into porn movies. The way it worked was like this: aspiring actresses would be promised roles in web series. The script would be changed on the ground. Those who objected were faced with threats of exposure or else the consequence of bearing the shooting expenses. Shootings, according to the Police, were carried out in a rented bungalow on the outskirts of Mumbai.
 
The series were available on mobile apps on subscriptions along the formula adopted by mainstream OTT platforms. These apps grabbed eyeballs and were money spinners especially during the lockdown when people were stuck at home.
 
Pornography, it may be pointed out, is illegal in India. Under the Indian law, publishing or transmitting "obscene" material, including pornography is punishable by up to seven years in jail.
 
Yet, Indians are believed to be among the largest consumers of online pornography: ranked third in a list of countries published by Pornhub, the world's largest pornographic video-sharing website.
 
Kundra is in the eye of a storm because he was connected with a production house based in the UK that was allegedly uploading objectionable, rather pornographic content. Kundra is alleged to have sold a pornographic app called Hot Shots to a UK based company to bypass scrutiny under the Indian law. The content creation and operations are alleged to have been handled by Kundra’s company Viaan: ironically named after his nine year old son.

This, however, was not Kundra’s first: may not be his last too.
 
The Police had earlier registered an FIR against various platforms allegedly involved in showcasing pornographic content. Kundra had then applied for anticipatory bail.
 
Kundra’s claim to fame is thanks to his well-known actor wife, Shilpa Shetty who made heads turn in London several years ago.
 
Rewind to 2007 when Shetty made her way into Britain’s popular reality show Celebrity Big Brother on Channel 4. The show thrives on conflict among housemates going about their daily routine.
 
At the receiving end from fellow housemates, Shetty was not only referred to as “the Indian” but also hurled a racist slur at her: something that Shetty played to the hilt.
 
Quite expectedly, her fans went on a rampage and almost “broke” the internet protesting against the bullying tactics of the housemates. Almost overnight Shetty became a household name in Britain: loved and hated at the same time: “"Why do they hate me? Why am I detested?" sobbed the then 31-year-old star as she broke down on the show.
 
Things did settle but not till India’s Foreign Ministry intervened and lodged a formal complaint via the British High Commission in India’s Capital city New Delhi.
 
Meanwhile, the broadcasters of the show were flooded with protest calls and thousands of people signed an online petition: "Stop Shilpa Shetty being the victim of racism in the Celebrity Big Brother house".
 
The sum total: what her work in Bollywood could not do for the years Shetty spent in her acting career, the celebrity show did overnight: made her a phenomenon.
 
Shetty married Kundra in 2009, post a messy divorce wherein Kundra’s first wife accused Shetty of being a “home breaker”.
 
The Shetty-Kundra duo often made headlines for their fairy-tale romance and lavish life-style.
 
The couple became part-owners of the Rajasthan Royals, a team in the Indian Premier League, the world’s richest cricketing tournament.
 
Embroiled in a corruption scandal, the team, along with the Chennai Super Kings, were found guilty after an illegal betting and match-fixing probe.

Even while cooling his heels in jail, Kundra has denied any wrong-doing and his lawyer stating that his arrest is illegal.

Guilty as he may be or may not be, it would, however, be unfair to single out Kundra in this ongoing saga of sleaze. He is a player but a minor one. There are big guns involved as was evident with top names linked to the drug cartel following actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death.
The Narcotics Control Bureau or the NCB had then cracked down on the drug nexus by focussing on the drug parties that were routine in Bollywood. Summons were issued to top stars including Deepika Padukone, Shraddha Kapoor, Rakul Preet Singh and Sara Ali Khan among others.
Sara Ali Khan, it may be recalled, is the daughter of well known film actor Saif Ali Khan and his estranged wife Amrita Singh, also an actor.
Padukone  was embroiled in the alleged Bollywood drugs nexus after her WhatsApp chats with manager Karishma Prakash surfaced during the investigation wherein she was allegedly asking for “maal”, stuff. Even while she denied consuming drugs she did acknowledge her drug chats with her manager.

The lid blew following disclosures by Rajput’s girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty who had revealed to the investigating agency about the majority of the stars being on drugs: 80 percent is the figure she gave if reports are to be believed. Rhea had also admitted procuring drugs for Rajput.
 
What, however, grabbed eyeballs was a video of a party at producer director Karan Johar’s house where several actors were shown in a drugged state.
The video had featured well known stars like Ranbir Kapoor, Ayan Mukherjee, Vicky Kaushal, Arjun Kapoor, Malaika Arora, Shahid Kapoor, Varun Dhawan to name a few.
Interestingly, Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut, who was then spearheading a movement against drug mafia in Bollywood, had revealed that Bollywood actors consumed drugs. Demanding that the government carry out a blood test for drugs on actors, directors, Ranaut, a national-award-winning actor, had alleged that the likes of Karan Johar, Ranveer Singh among others were cocaine addicts.
Porn and drugs may be the latest in the Bollywood sleaze but it is a stated fact that actors and even well-known directors think they are not only privileged but also above the law.
 
For instance, actor Salman Khan’s “adventures” are many except he has always managed to get away. He was acquitted in a case of poaching and killing an endangered species, chinkaras in Rajasthan as he was for mowing down people allegedly under the influence of alcohol. That apart his physical abuse of his girlfriends as also his sexist comment comparing his training as a wrestler being similar to rape, for his block-buster film Sultan did not dampen his fan following. If anything the film raked in millions.
 
Or the fact that Sanjay Dutt spent years in jail for illegal possession of weapons. Originally arrested under TADA or the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act for his alleged involvement in the Mumbai bomb blasts in 1993, Dutt finally served a sentence under the Arms Act which means he spent less years in jail that he would have had he been acquitted under TADA.  
 
So what does this tell us about our actors who think nothing of trampling the law under their feet; who go about with a swagger of money can buy anything?
 
If past evidence is anything to go by, these self-styled demigods have got away with murder if one may use the term. Even in cases where the law got them, they managed to either get away like many big names in the drug cartel or were let off rather lightly like the Khans or Dutt did or perhaps Kundra would.
 
Irrespective, the one fact that stands out amid this sleaze is that our heroes and actors have truly fallen and failed to lead by example.

The writer is a senior Indian journalist, political commentator and columnist of The Independent. She can be reached at: ([email protected])