Three South Indian film industries are struggling to come to terms with the extent to which crime and politics have penetrated their ranks. And as the headlines keep coming, more and more of what goes on in the dark underbellies in the industries are being exposed.
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The first of these was the abduction and rape of an actress who was making a name in the Malayalam film industry in Kerala, also known as Mollywood. The history-sheeter who is the prime accused in the case has implicated a noted star and a filmmaker in the case, laying bare the mafia links people both in front of and behind the camera maintain.
In the case of the Telugu film industry, the needle of suspicion of involvement in narcotic trade has swung towards several Tollywood actors and directors, with one prominent filmmaker being questioned for hours about it.
Either way, the allegations have managed to bring to light the hitherto hidden aspect of seedy deals and often-illegal ongoings that hide behind painted faces and glittering tales in cinema.
The Tamil film industry, or Kollywood, meanwhile is besieged with politics. While Superstar Rajinikanth is dropping heavy hints that he might join electoral politics, Kamal Haasan has also indicated his intentions to join the political fray.
In Kerala, it all started in February this year when an actress' vehicle was hijacked by some miscreants who drove her around for a few hours, molested her and videographed her entire ordeal. The immediate uproar was quelled within days when the prime accused in the case — a history-sheeter named Pulsar Suni — was arrested within a week of the incident.
However, even before the police caught hold of him, the name of a Mollywood actor — and a former co-star of the victim — had begun to do the rounds in connection with the case. That was Dileep, who had back then denied any involvement in the case.
It was Pulsar Suni who blew the case wide open, and it was in a manner worthy of many a drama film of Mollywood: He confessed to his cellmate that he had attacked the actress at the behest of a top actor in the industry.
It took the police a little more sleuthing to connect the dots and land at the doorstep of Dileep, who was arrested on July 10 over his involvement in the case. It has been speculated that professional jealousy and personal enmity over relationships were the motive behind the entire plan, which was to blackmail the actress with the videos Pulsar Suni and his cohorts had recorded while molesting the actress.
Dileep's arrest has blown the lid off not only the existing misogyny in Mollywood — even superstar Mammootty and his films are not immune to them — but also the underworld connections many actors and filmmakers have. What is especially disconcerting is the fact that Dileep has now been found to be in possession of land and properties worth Rs 600 crore, with the Enforcement Directorate expressing an interest in probing how he came to own them.
And that seems to be another of the problems Dileep is already facing. Watch what is troubling him here:
It has not even been three months since the behemoth that was Baahubali: The Conclusion released, and one of its stars is already under the scanner for his connections to the narcotics ring — even though it is as a consumer — that the Hyderabad Police are cracking down on.
That actor is Subbaraju, who played the bumbling royal turned braveheart Kumara Varma in the SS Rajamouli magnum opus. And he is hardly the only big name from the Telugu film Industry, or Tollywood, to be named by the police as being involved in the large-scale supply and consumption of narcotic substances.
On the radar are stars like Charmme Kaur and Mumaith Khan, as well as filmmaker Puri Jagannadh, who has been questioned extensively in connection with the case. Jagannadh, it may be noted, had worked with Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan in the Hindi film Bbuddah... Hoga Terra Baap, which had also starred Kaur.
Mumaith Khan, meanwhile, is currently appearing on television in the Telugu version of Bigg Boss, the Indian version of Celebrity Big Brother. She, too, has had a small stint in Bollywood, but mostly in item numbers. She is expected to be questioned by the special investigation team probing the drug scandal.
Actors and film technicians from the Tamil film industry tend to do well in politics. Cases in point: From the highly-successful Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi to the moderately-successful T Rajender and Vijayakanth.
However, it now seems that Jayalalithaa's death has left behind a huge void in Tamil Nadu politics that seems to be beckoning none other than superstar Rajinikanth. While he has not announced anything formally yet, enough hints have been dropped that he may enter politics.
And as if Thalaivaa wasn't enough, even Kamal Haasan seems to have indicated his intentions to enter politics. Haasan, it may be noted, had earlier hinted that politics had affected the collection of one of his films.
In case of both Rajinikanth and Haasan, they have been receiving challenges from possible political rivals as well as veiled threats of harm from some quarters.
It now remains to be seen which direction each industry goes in order to extricate themselves from their respective problems, and whether those steps are just band-aid solutions or have far-reaching effects that set an example for everybody.