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Deepika Padukone: Bollywood star questioned in drugs case


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image copyrightGetty Images

image captionDeepika Padukone is one of Bollywood’s highest-paid stars

Bollywood star Deepika Padukone is being questioned by India’s narcotics board in an investigation linked to the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput.

Padukone is among six people to be summoned – two other actresses will also be questioned on Saturday.

Rajput’s girlfriend, Rhea Chakraborty, was arrested earlier this month for allegedly buying drugs for him – claims she has denied.

The case has fuelled months of media coverage and speculation in India.

Actresses Sara Ali Khan and Shraddha Kapoor are among those who will be questioned on Saturday, according to news reports. Another actress, Rakul Preet Singh, was questioned on Friday.

Rajput, 34, was found dead in his flat in Mumbai on 14 June. Police at the time said he had killed himself.

But his family later registered a police complaint against Chakraborty, accusing her of abetment to suicide and other crimes, all of which she has denied.

The case is now being investigated by three federal agencies.

With investigators drip-feeding nuggets of information to the media, rumours and conjecture over what happened and who is responsible have been rife.

What is the case?

The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) seems to be pursuing two investigations – the first into Rhea Chakraborty, her brother and Rajput’s former house manager.

All three were arrested for allegedly organising and financing the actor’s alleged consumption of cannabis. They have denied any wrongdoing.

The second investigation, which followed on from the first, is into claims of widespread use of drugs in Bollywood, according to local media.

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionActress Sara Ali Khan is among those summoned by the narcotics agency

Officials have been sparing with the details of the investigation, which has only added to the air of mystery.

Within days of Rajput’s death, attention switched to Chakraborty, who found herself at the centre of a storm of allegations and conspiracy theories.

As part of their investigation, NCB officials said they were looking into WhatsApp chat messages in which Chakraborty was supposedly discussing narcotics.

While marijuana is illegal in India, a derivative of it – called bhang – is legal and commonly used.

What does Deepika Padukone have to do with it?

It’s not really clear yet.

Narcotics officials say their questioning is based on WhatsApp chats involving Padukone and her managers, according to local media reports. But it’s still unclear what these messages contain.

Some say she’s being targeted because in January she visited a university where a group of students had been attacked on campus allegedly by a mob of rival students linked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). BJP supporters had accused the actress of cynically mining publicity for her new film and on Twitter, they had asked people to boycott it.

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionSushant Singh Rajput started dating Chakraborty in 2019

Social media users have also been asking why only actresses – and not actors – have been called in for questioning.

But a case that began with an investigation into an actor’s death has spiralled into something else altogether in the weeks since.

And now with a string of Bollywood insiders in sudden focus, the media circus around the case has only grown, taking over national headlines and social media feeds in the country.

What has the reaction been?

The aggressive approach of television channels has led many to point out the absurdity of their coverage.

Over months, the media have spared none of the people around Rajput – his therapist, friends, family, colleagues and even his former cook have all been sought out for interviews and exclusives.

And with a lack of official information, news channels have spent hours dissecting what little, seemingly random, details are leaked.

In an attempt to show that Chakraborty was supposedly involved in Rajput’s finances, one television channel

tried to interpret alleged messages from her phone

.

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionChakraborty has been hounded by the media

The anchor pointed to one such message, which said “Imma bounce”, and concluded that this meant a bounced cheque – much to the amusement of social media users, who quickly pointed out that this was millennial slang for “I’m going to leave”.

While the unyielding media focus has prompted laughs and memes online, it has also spurred plenty of criticism.

Many have questioned whether all the hours spent on this have distracted people from other pressing issues India is battling at the moment – a Covid-19 caseload that is the second-highest in the world, an economy that has sharply contracted and rapidly deteriorating relations with China.

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