Bollywood is going through a really bad time at the moment. There are too many khalnayaks floating around - had Bejan Daruwala, India's best marketed astrologer, been alive, he would have checked the alignment of the stars (the celestial ones) and dashed off one more edition of 'Ganesha Speaks', with a convincing explanation as to why this is happening to so many of the best and brightest in tinsel town ('Rahu not properly aligned with Ketu'). From tragedy to comedy to action drama to horror - every genre is well-represented in the ongoing tamasha involving bhaari celeb names. Bollywood has suddenly lost its mojo - sheen and glitter - something nobody could have anticipated even two months ago.
Film industry watchers are strenuously trying to connect the dots and failing miserably. Come on - it isn't only about Sushant Singh Rajput's tragic suicide. It never was. Nor is he the sole trigger for all the dirt that's surfacing from the Bollywood sewer. The muck has always been there - it's an essential component of global showbiz, given the nature of the business. Where there is muck to be raked - it will be raked! That's a given. At the moment, with movie-making coming to a standstill, and no real kaam-dhanda to worry about, the muck-rakers are filling in the long, empty hours, unearthing one controversy after another. The only person who has managed to hog more headlines and media space during the ongoing chaos, and become an overnight 'star', is a middle-aged match maker from Mumbai - Sima Taparia, who has a bigger following for now, than Katrina, Deepika and Priyanka put together. If you don't know the power of Sima Masi, you are in the wrong space capsule. Sima Aunty's priceless insight into the desi psyche can be summed up in two words : "We adjust".
Bollywood also 'adjusts'.
Bollywood is so bloody good at 'adjusting', it has now become a permanent way of life. Bollywood is a protean creature that can take any shape it wants to, whenever it wants, aaram se. Unfortunately, its pandemic shape is an eyesore. BJP's national spokesperson and Vice President Jay Panda has come out with some explosive revelations linking unnamed 'top stars' with, hold your breath, ISI agents, claiming these A-listers are engaged in anti-national activities. There are stories of how Pakistani agents have 'infiltrated' Bollywood over the years, and are working closely with film personalities to cause instability in Jammu and Kashmir. These are pretty sinister insinuations, and if true, can lead to disastrous consequences, not just within Bollywood, but much beyond.
One quick point: there are no secrets in Bollywood. Everybody knows everything about everybody else. Most choose to play dumb or feign ignorance. Nobody likes 'lafdas'. It is a pretty dark world with an ugly underbelly. Starry Nights, the novel I wrote way back in 1991, pretty much uncovered the sordidness of showbiz, with an unfiltered account of how things work in this murky world filled with sharks and other equally charming creatures. The nexus between Bollywood bosses and the underworld is hardly a 'raaz'. One way or the other, it is these shadowy gangsters who call the shots from their safe havens in Dubai and elsewhere. It is these ruthless people who dictate most of the major movie decisions. Hardly anybody wants to take them on or challenge their diktats. When a Bollywood person says sotto voce, "Dubai se phone aaya tha - mana nahi kar sakte", the message goes out loud and clear - play ball, or else.
I am intrigued by the timing of the recent and highly explosive Bollywood expose, though. Why now? We have an important, politically sensitive, very high-profile Bhumi Puja in Ayodhya coming up on August 5th. All eyes and ears are on that event. And then, out of the blue, comes this startling 'breaking news' about Bollywood's traitors and villains who are openly conspiring with India's enemies to destablise peace and cause communal rifts in the Valley. Agreed, movie stars make attractive fodder. Let's hope there won't be any attempt to polarize Bollywood along religious lines. It is being suggested that some of the top stars are easily bought, and even more easily manipulated with inducements galore. Of course, big bucks are made via international entertainment shows and gigs. This much is accurate and, in itself, not a crime. These shows have been going on for decades. It is important to take Jay Panda's charges seriously and get to the bottom of this lethal story that compromises the security of India. He has stated that some popular superstars have/had links with the Pakistani mafia, Pakistani generals and notorious ISI agents (party pictures were flashed on camera). In any other country, such charges would lead to a thorough investigation by the right agencies. Certainly, if such a story had broken in Hollywood, the Feds would have moved in swiftly and marched off key suspects for interrogation. We should do the same here. Or else, this will be another missed opportunity to finally clean up Bollywood.
"MeToo'' died a premature death in Bollywood - killed! Dishoom! Chapter closed. Strictly no sequel.
Let's hope Panda's Pandemic Bomb does not turn out to be a 'phoooos'.
(Shobhaa De is an established writer, columnist, opinion shaper and social commentator, who is considered an authority on popular culture.)
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