Taking the moral high ground, trying to play the victim card to elicit sympathy, or clamming up believing that the upcoming festivities would make people stop discussing the drugs issue could prove an unproductive strategy as overuse of many of these dodging tactics has greatly blunted their effectiveness as smoke-screens for maintaining an industry’s carefully crafted image with external stakeholders.
Bollywood’s clean-up moment is here, and the Hindi movie industry should not waste it as doing so could have possible business ramifications.
Displaying apparent reservations about the drugs-related investigations may run the risk of even impartial observers beginning to ask whether Tinsel town is afraid that a probe may open up a huge can of worms or them wanting to know if Bollywood is uncomfortable that laws of the land are being applied in its case.
Being open and transparent about the way it conducts its affairs, offering full support to the ongoing inquiry of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), and letting truth be its best defence should be the way to go for Bollywood at this moment. Taking the moral high ground, trying to play the victim card to elicit sympathy, or clamming up believing that the upcoming festivities would make people stop discussing the drugs issue could prove an unproductive strategy as overuse of many of these dodging tactics has greatly blunted their effectiveness as smoke-screens for maintaining an industry’s carefully crafted image with external stakeholders.
All those connected with Bollywood– particularly its spin doctors–should recognise that coming up with an argument about the Hindi movie industry not being the only one with a problem and therefore should not be probed may not strengthen its case against a drugs investigation. For such a defence could be almost analogous to a person on being asked to pay a fine for jumping a traffic light refusing to do so till everybody who managed to get away after committing the same offence have been booked by the authorities. A crime or misdemeanour does not stop being so just because many are indulging in such a practice.
Bollywood spokespeople should, moreover, realise that offering unsolicited advice on who the investigators should go after and in which order is not only uncalled for considering that NCB is a professional organisation and knows its job, but, also, that such an initiative may be construed by ordinary Indians as an attempt by the Hindi movie world to influence the probe. And, in the process, it is likely to dent Bollywood’s image of being a responsible member of the overall entertainment sector.
The illicit drug trade has implications that extend far beyond Bollywood. The ‘World Drug Report 2020’ released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in June, this year, stated that drug use during the period 2000-2018 increased far more rapidly in developing countries than in developed nations, with adolescents and young adults forming the biggest segment of drug users.“The Covid-19 crisis and economic downturn threaten to compound drug dangers further still, when our health and social systems have been brought to the brink and our societies are struggling to cope,” UNODC Executive Director Ms Ghada Waly had then been quoted as saying in an official media release.
In such a scenario, too, for some key Bollywood stakeholders to come across as either being oblivious of the drug problem or not unduly bothered by it, may not reflect well on an industry, which, in recent times, has latched on to several social issues as themes for Hindi movies(many of which have gone to become huge hits). Going forward, the titans of Bollywood should introspect on this aspect to ensure that their halo effect remains intact.
[The author is Advisor at the Gurgaon-based advisory on communications and stakeholder advocacy R M Consulting https://rmconsulting.in . Views expressed are personal.]