The recent drug bust in Hyderabad has maligned the image of Tollywood like never before.
On July 2, the excise wing of Hyderabad police had arrested three drug peddlers namely Calvin Mascrenhas, 29, Mohammed Abdul Wahed, 20, and his elder brother Mohammed Abdul Quddus, 29. The investigation brought out some shocking facts revealing that the drug peddlers' clientele included school students and some of them were as young as class 8 students. The further investigation went on to expose the dark underbelly of the city.
What was more shocking was the alleged involvement of some Tollywood celebs. A Special Investigation Team (SIT), which was set up to probe the drug racket, revealed the list of people, whose names were in the contact list of the drug peddlers. The team also claimed the list included 12 personalities from the Telugu film industry and they were served notice to appear for the interrogation.
Since then, the entire focus shifted to Tollywood. It sparked many speculations about the celebs named in the list and their history of drug abuse. While many in the film fraternity condemned the celebs named in the list for tarnishing the image of entire Telugu film industry, the Movie Artistes Association (MAA) urged the SIT to hold the investigation in a discreet manner.
Popular celebs like Ravi Teja, Puri Jagannadh, Charmee Kaur were among the list of people summoned for questioning. The alleged involvement of A-listers like them gave a full time work for rumour mills. The family members of some of these celebs came out in open and slammed the media houses for blowing the news out of proportion.
But all their claims had fallen flat after the SIT started the interrogation on July 19. Director Puri Jagannadh was the first from the Telugu film industry to be grilled over the drug scandal in Hyderabad. The excise wing collected the samples of his blood, nail and hair with his consent after interrogating him for 10 hours.
Later in a video shared on his Twitter account, Puri Jagannadh claimed that he was innocent and had cooperated with the officials during the interrogation. He cleared the air that he had never taken drugs and he would never indulge in it as he was a responsible citizen.
In the following days, cinematographer Shyam K Naidu, actors like Subbaraju, Tarun, Navdeep, Ravi Teja and Tanish, actresses Charmee Kaur and Mumaith Khan, singer Ananda Krishna Nandu and art director Chinna N Dharmarao were grilled by the SIT. All of them are well-known faces from the Telugu film industry and their link up with the scandal made everyone look down upon Tollywood.
The SIT collected the samples of blood, nail and hair of some these celebs with their written consent, but it has not made any arrests so far. "Based on the statements given by the accused and others who were called for questioning, the SIT will decide whether to call more people for questioning," the Indian Express quoted an official from the excise department as saying.
Tollywood is one of the leading film industries of India and the huge success of Baahubali 2 had taken the name of Tollywood to the national and international level. Post its release, world cinema's gaze shifted to India and they started following even small developments in the Telugu industry. All the spotlight turned negative when the drug racket got busted as it started getting national coverage.