Leading Bollywood filmmakers have filed a lawsuit in the Delhi High Court against "irresponsible reporting by certain media houses", in the latest fallout of the Sushant Singh Rajput investigation. Some of the film industry's biggest names, including Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn, Karan Johar, Aditya Chopra and Farhan Akhtar, have come together in the unprecedented legal action against two channels - Republic TV and Times Now.
The suit has been filed against Republic TV, and Arnab Goswami and Pradeep Bhandari of the channel; and Times Now and its top faces Rahul Shivshankar and Navika Kumar.
The channels used "highly derogatory words and expressions for Bollywood", said the producers, listing terms like "dirt", "filth", "scum" and "druggies" used over the past few months.
The producers also complained about the channels using provocative expressions like -- "It is Bollywood where the dirt needs to be cleaned"; "All the perfumes of Arabia cannot take away the stench and the stink of this filth and scum of the underbelly of Bollywood"; "This is the dirtiest industry in the country"; and "Cocaine and LSD-drenched Bollywood".
The film industry has been in the spotlight over a drugs probe linked to the investigations into the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput on June 14. Amid revelations of drug chats on phones, stars and their parties have been subjected to searing, no-holds-barred media scrutiny.
The channels as well as social media platforms must "refrain from making or publishing irresponsible, derogatory and defamatory remarks against Bollywood and its members", the producers say. They also want the channels to stop carrying out media trials and infringing upon the privacy of members of the film industry.
While the producers don't call for blanket media gag in the Sushant Singh Rajput investigation, they want the court to stop reportage that violates the law. They want the channels to "withdraw, recall and take down all the defamatory content published by them against Bollywood".
The filmmakers say Bollywood is a "distinct and well-recognised class" that is a huge source of revenue, foreign exchange and employment.
The film industry is dependent almost solely on goodwill, appreciation and the acceptance of its audience, says the lawsuit. "The livelihood of persons associated with Bollywood is being severely impacted by the smear campaign being run by the defendants. This is in addition to the ongoing pandemic which has resulted in extreme revenues and work opportunity loss. The privacy of the members of Bollywood is being invaded, and their reputations are being irreparably damaged by painting the entire Bollywood as criminals seeped in drug culture and making being part of Bollywood as synonymous with criminal acts in the public imagination," the producers say.
Those in the industry who have filed the case include the Producers Guild of India, the Cine and TV Artiste Association, Ad-Labs Films, Ajay Devgn Fflims, Anil Kapoor Film and Communication Network, Arbaaz Khan Productions, Ashutosh Gowariker Productions, Excel Entertainment, Kabir Khan Films, Nadiadwala Grandson Entertainment, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra Pictures, Reliance Big Entertainment, Rohit Shetty Pictures, Roy Kapur Productions, Vinod Chopra Films and Vishal Bhardwaj Films.
Times Now Editor-in-Chief Rahul Shivshankar, in response, said cases against his channel's journalists were "bad precedent".
"Cases against journalists of Times Now that have only sought justice for those who are wronged are a bad precedent. The mighty may think they can weaken the resolve of the fearless but they are wrong," he tweeted.
The media houses in question had been reprimanded and penalized earlier too and had been found guilty of defamatory, unsubstantiated and incorrect news, says Bollywood, pointing out that the channels "indulged in frenzy suggesting that the CBI would start making arrests" after the agency took over the Sushant Rajput investigations.
"These defendants are conducting and publishing parallel private 'investigations' and effectively acting as 'courts' to condemn persons connected with Bollywood as guilty based on what they claim is 'evidence' found by them, thereby trying to make a mockery of the criminal justice system," said Bollywood.