For the past few days, film director and producer Indrajith Lankesh has been talking only about the drugs racket in Sandalwood (the nickname for the Kannada film world). Many thought there would be nothing new in his claims than what they had seen or heard in the past. However, they are now shocked by the twists that have unfolded — two young actresses have been arrested in connection with the drugs case. There will be more arrests, VVIPs could also get trapped. It turns out Indrajith Lankesh, the brother of slain journalist Gouri Lankesh, may have exposed the drug secrets of Sandalwood.
The investigations into the alleged drug dealings in connection with the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput led to the unravelling of the racket in Bengaluru and its connection to the cinema world. The inquiry in Bengaluru intensified when Indrajith presented evidence pointing to the close links of the Kannada film world to drug dealers.
Although it initially dismissed Indrajith’s allegations, the Kannada Film Chamber has changed its tone. It now says that the dirt should be removed from the industry.
Link to Malayalam cinema
The unmasking of the murky side of the film industry began after the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) arrested TV serial actress D Anikha, along with Muhammad Anoop of Vennala in Ernakulam and Rijesh Ravindran of Thiruvilwamala in Thrissur, on August 21 after they were found to be in possession of drugs.
Anikha's diary contained information of people working in serials and films, musicians and children of VIPs. Then, with the revelations made by Indrajith, Sandalwood came under closer scrutiny.
Meanwhile, Indrajith issued an apology to actress Meghana Raj. While talking about drugs, the name of Meghana's husband late actor Chiranjeevi Sarja (39), who died of cardiac arrest recently, was mentioned. The actress lodged a complaint with the Film Chamber against this.
Lankesh, however, added, “My intention was not to link Sarja's name to drugs. But, here, an actor was involved in a car accident after using drugs. There are definitely 10-15 people in the movie industry who use drugs. I just gave the police those details.”
With the arrest of Lom Pepper Samba, an African national, investigators have also got information about big drug parties being conducted in the city of Bengaluru.
The NCB arrested 11 people, including Ravi Shankar, a friend and RT office clerk of actress Ragini Dwivedi; Rahul Shetty, a friend of actress Sanjjanaa Galrani and a real estate businessman; celebrity planner of drug parties Viren Khanna; and a Kannada film producer. Later, Ragini and Sanjjanaa were also arrested.
When another actress said marijuana is very good, it made many wonder if drugs are such a ‘hit’ in the Kannada film world.
Meanwhile, investigators say that the arrest of Jimreen Ashi, a native of Kannur who introduced Muhammad Anoop to Anikha, will throw more light on whether Malayalam filmmakers have any connection to the Kannada film drug racket, say investigators. The NCB is looking for Jimreen.
Jimreen's name was mentioned in both Anoop and Anika’s statements. Anoop has told the NCB that he met Anika for drug dealings on Jimreen’s recommendation. The NCB also suspects that Jimreen is the link between those in the Malayalam film industry and the drug racket in Bengaluru.
The fact that investigators got Bineesh Kodiyeri's number from the mobile of Anoop, who was running a restaurant named ‘Hyatt’ in Kammanahalli, Bengaluru, also raises suspicions about Malayalam cinema’s connection.
They also got the number of Trivandrum gold smuggling case accused K T Ramees from Anoop’s mobile. The investigators are now trying to ascertain if the drug racket had any role in the gold smuggling case in which Swapna Suresh is one of the main accused.
Night parties, WhatsApp deals
Niyas, a native of Kaloor in Kochi, has been arrested in connection with the Kannada film drugs racket. From his phone, the Bengaluru police have found WhatsApp conversations with Ragini Dwivedi on drug dealings. This busted the actress’ claim that except for having had drugs twice, she had no other dealings with the racket.
Niyas, who ran a modelling company and a club earlier, had organised night parties, too. He has done small roles in Malayalam films, including in Kalki, and in commercials.
He also had a close friendship with the arrested actress Sanjjanaa Galrani. Sanjjanaa had put a Facebook post on July 9 to promote the N95 masks distributed by Niyas and he had thanked her for that. The raid on Sanjjanaa’s house was conducted based on Niyas's statement.
Investigators are also looking at whether Niyas acted an intermediary in introducing filmmakers from Kochi to the Kannada film drug racket.
Niyas was also a regular visitor to the night parties involving foreigners and film stars hosted by Viren Khanna using a Facebook group called the Bangalore Expat Club. Khanna has been arrested.
There are now allegations that the children of politicians and businessmen are also involved in the racket.
Photos of Ragini Dwivedi campaigning with chief minister B S Yediyurappa’s son B Y Vijayendra for the December 2019 bypolls after the BJP came to power in the state are now being circulated widely. But the BJP says it is natural for actors to accompany leaders during campaigns and that the actress has not been given any responsibility in the party.
Aditya Alva, the son of former Karnataka minister and undivided Janata Dal leader late Jeevaraj Alva, has also been named as an accused in the case involving Ragini Dwivedi. Aditya, who is also the brother of Priyanka, the wife of Bollywood actor Vivek Oberoi, is a real estate businessman. He was a regular at night parties.
There are strong indications that the drug racket probe will extend to the children of many politicians and also to neighbouring states, including Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
The actress facing controversy
Rhea Chakraborty and her brother Showik Chakraborty, the children of former Indian Army officer Indrajith Chakraborty, did their schooling at the Army Public School in Ambala.
Rhea, born to a Bengali family in Bengaluru in 1992, was a star in her school and college due to her beauty, height, and energy, qualities that also helped her become an MTV video jockey. Meanwhile, she also got into modelling and onto the ramp.
Her first movie was in Telugu in 2012. The next year, she got into Bollywood with the movie ‘Mere dad ki Maruti’, made by Y-Films, a subsidiary of Yash Raj Films. She has done five films so far, including Mahesh Bhatt's Jalebi.
Riya claims that late actor Sushant Singh Rajput fell in love with her in 2015. It was not until last year that the two began to give hints about the relationship.
Later, Riya took to social media posting pictures of herself with Sushant. She and Sushant lived together. He was also a part of her family’s WhatsApp groups.
However, Riya left his flat on June 8, a few days before he died on June 14.
Showik, who did his degree from Canada, is aged 24. Rhea, Showik and Sushant had started an artificial intelligence company.
There was no controversy or allegation against her in the initial days after Sushant's death. The allegations started after Sushant's father lodged a complaint with the Bihar police.
Will any big Bollywood name fall?
The investigations into drug dealings in the Sushant Singh Rajput case will widen to include some of the top Bollywood personalities. The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) will soon start investigations against 25 people, including some celebrities.
Investigators are compiling a list of big and small stars by putting them in different categories. The NCB will also issue summons to Sushant’s close friends, costars and those who regularly attend night parties with him, on the basis of indications that he was a regular drug user.