Telugu Features

Inside Tollywood’s Drug Scandal: What’s True, What’s Not

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All that you need to know about Tollywood’s drug racket: the facts, the speculations, the denials

Yesterday, Telugu actor Tanish Alladi became the latest to be questioned in the recently-busted drug racket in Hyderabad. The actor met the Special Investigation Team (SIT) at 10 am, and he was grilled about his alleged link to the racket, and if he used drugs. Alladi happens to be the 10th person from the film industry to be questioned by the police.

One of the biggest stars in the Telugu film industry, Ravi Teja, was questioned last Friday for 10 hours, and his driver, Srinivas Rao, faced the SIT on Saturday. Like the others, Teja too, had little to say when he met reporters after the interrogation. A spokesperson for the actor proclaimed his innocence, saying, “Ravi Teja is not addicted to drugs. He is not a drug taker at all.”

His mother, too, vouched for his character. She also asked for some privacy in these trying times. Ravi Teja’s brother has passed away recently, and the scandal has come close on the heels of that.

The drug-related controversy has dominated headlines in Telugu media since it was uncovered on July 2. So much so that Jr NTR’s Bigg Boss Telugu has failed to create the sort of hype and controversy its Tamil cousin has. The already lurid nature of the case has only been heightened by the supposed involvement of 12 film personalities. 

Despite the highly public nature of the events, little has emerged from the interrogation sessions.

Mumaith Khan and Charrme Kaur have both been grilled. As have director Puri Jagannadh, Shyam K Naidu, Baahubali actor Subbaraju, Tharun, Navdeep, Charmme Kaur and art director Chinna. 

Kajal Aggarwal’s manager Ronnie was also arrested, prompting an immediate press release from the actress, in which she dissociated herself from the events.

Charmme moved the High Court stating that she wanted her lawyers to be present during the interrogation. She also said that she would provide hair, nail and blood samples only if she wanted to. The High Court denied her request for legal counsel to be present, but did allow that Kaur should be questioned in the presence of female officers. Also, the actress was granted relief from compulsory drug testing.

Kaur’s father, Deep Singh Uppal, has been vocal about his daughter’s innocence from the beginning. He told Silverscreen, “This is a false case brought about based on very flimsy, false claims. What can one say from selfies? Stars take photographs with people every day. Can we afford to do a background check on people who ask my daughter for selfies and autographs every minute of every day? This whole case has maligned my family’s reputation.”

Uppal is determined to fight this case every step of the way. “We won’t stop till they apologise,” he added.

The involvement of celebrities emerged fairly late. On July 2, the SIT led by Akun Sabharwal, arrested event manager Calvin Mascarenhas. Calvin was arrested along with Mohammed Abdul Wahed and Mohammed Abdul Quddus in the first week of July. Central Excise officials claimed to have recovered 700 blots of LSD and 35 grams of MDMA from the trio. Through the contacts list on Mascarenhas’ phone and selfies with celebrities, Sabharwal and his team tracked down 12 film personalities suspected to have had dealings with him.

Among the 13 arrested since the racket was exposed on July 2 is US citizen Dundu Anish, a former aerospace engineer who had worked with the NASA. Also identified were seven B.Tech graduates, most of whom were working with MNCs in Hyderabad.  

According to the SIT, Mascarenhas sourced much of his supply from Darkweb, and had a network of small dealers who regularly supplied him with drugs. LSD and MDMA were his specialty, and he’d often deliver them directly to his clients. Sometimes, he’d even travel to his client’s country of choice to deliver the drugs. This is said to have given Mascarenhas unprecedented access to the film personalities. Puri Jagannadh reportedly features in a lot of Mascarenhas’ photos.

A spokesperson for the director, however, denied any association and said, “Ever since the notice was sent to Jagannadh, there has been a calculated propaganda to mislead people about him. The media is on the warpath against him based on suggestions and rumours. He has no knowledge of Mascarenhas.”

The drug scandal is not new to the Telugu industry. Back in 2010, a drug dealer was arrested and his phone records revealed constant communication with famous stars of the time. The then Hyderabad police commissioner AK Khan pursued the case and questioned the celebrities involved and their families. No evidence was found to establish their involvement, and the case was eventually dropped.

Under Sabharwal, though, the case has taken a different turn. The SIT has left no stone unturned in its efforts to prosecute all those involved. It has earned the team and Sabharwal a lot of admiration on social media.

Ram Gopal Varma, though, is unimpressed.

At present, all those being questioned have strongly denied any involvement. Sabharwal, too, has admitted that not all of them may be guilty. “We don’t want to jump to conclusions till the investigation is completed. All the suspects might not be guilty. So, let us not speculate about their involvement,” he said.

Whatever the outcome, there’s no denying that for now, at least, the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana film-loving public is glued to the proceedings of this case.

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