Witch hunts, media trials and the vilification of the Bollywood industry seem to be the main agenda of Republic and Times Now, two of the leading media houses in the country. In the past few months, these 2 channels have become notorious for going to extra-ordinary measures in an effort to sensationalise any piece of news in regards to Bollywood. In fact, these efforts have resulted in Bollywood’s biggest filmmaker's, actors and production houses to file a law suit in the Delhi High Court against Republic TV and Times Now for “Irresponsible Reporting” among other claims...
Who have filed this civil suit and what are the claims?
The lawsuit has been filed against Arnab Goswami and Pradeep Bhandari of Republic TV and Navika Kumar and Rahul Shivshankar of Times Now. The plaintiffs are 4 big industry associations and almost 34 producers ! The Producers Guild Of India, one of India’s largest film associations, has over 130 members in itself. Some of the big names of Bollywood that are part of this lawsuit are Akshay Kumar, Shahrukh Khan , Anushka Sharma , Zoya Akhtar, Vidhu Vinod Chopra and many more.
These Bollywood actors and producers, in the lawsuit, have essentially asked these channels to “refrain from making or publishing irresponsible, derogatory and defamatory remarks against Bollywood and its members”. This has often been seen with Arnab’s angry rants on his ‘prime time debates’ where he calls Bollywood “dirt”, “filth”, Scum” and how it is “drenched in Cocaine and LSD” and “the dirtiest industry in the country”.
The channels have frequently been known to run these smear campaigns against the industry and have stooped to new lows in order to increase their TRP. These channels have even used the tragic death of SSR as a ply to run media trials against Bollywood , especially while targeting certain individuals. There have been various instances which have led to Bollywood filing this lawsuit.
Constantly vilifying Bollywood has become their trend
The film industry has come under scrutiny ever since the death of SSR was linked to drug use and since then these channels have been running ‘drug probes’ based on unfounded allegations in an effort to break the ‘drug nexus’ of Bollywood.
Arnab has been known to use contentious statements like ‘it is Bollywood where the dirt needs to be cleaned’, ‘all the perfumes of Arabia cannot take away the stench and the stink of this filth and scum of the underbelly of Bollywood’ and making a mockery of not only the industry but also himself. In fact, his overdramatised unprofessional behaviour of asking for Bollywood to supply him drugs on air has resulted in the internet breaking with memes.
While the death of SSR is still a matter that is being investigated by the CBI, these channels took investigative journalism to new heights (or rather lows) while trying to pin the death on a certain individual. From trying to blame directors who refused him roles to actresses who have dumped him, these channels were desperate to find a scapegoat to pin his death on. In fact, his own girlfriend became the prime suspect for them.
They carried out witch hunts based on allegations and leaked WhatsApp chats
While Rhea Chakraborty has been arrested for drug trafficking, the CBI has not found any link to her stealing SSR’s finances or drugging him, as the accusations by these channels had suggested. Their biased reporting made her a nation-wide target which eventually lead to her getting rape and death threats!
The focus was eventually shifted to top actresses Deepika Padukone, Shraddha Kapoor and Sara Ali Khan allegedly asking for CBD, hash and ‘maal’ over leaked WhatsApp chats. While they can be held accountable for consumption of illegal substances, the attempt to break Bollywood’s ‘Drug Cartel’ has stained their reputation and even their career.
These events have led to the lawsuit demanding that the channels should "refrain from making or publishing irresponsible, derogatory and defamatory remarks against Bollywood and its members". The producers also essentially want the channels to stop carrying out unwarranted media trials and infringing upon the privacy of the actors. This publicity has definitely affected the industry negatively and Bollywood has decided to finally act upon it
Bollywood has been suffering due to these claims
The negative press that Bollywood has been getting is certainly starting to diminish their ratings and inadvertently affect their livelihood. This was seen in the negative comments about the release of Sadak 2 , so much so that it ended up being the worlds 2nd most disliked video!
Even Jaya Bachann spoke out against this treatment in the parliament saying “Entertainment industry in our country which provides direct employment every day to 5 lakh people and indirect employment to 5 million people. At a time when the financial situation is in a depressing state, and employment is at the worst level, in order to divert attention of the people, we are being used to be flogged by the social media and the government’s non support.”
However, this civil suit is far from settling the dispute between the channels and Bollywood and may in fact, result in many more heated debates and bitter fights.
Times Now hints at the battle being far from over
Rahul Shivshankar, Editor-in-Chief of Times Now, in a series of tweets lashed back at this lawsuit claiming that Bollywood was targeting certain channels when, in fact these campaigns have been led by various other leadings news channels too.
Even Navika Kumar of Times Now has criticised this effort of Bollywood to file a lawsuit against these two channels as a ‘gag order’ in an attempt to prevent the SSR case from being investigated
However Bollywood assures that this lawsuit is not to stop SSR’s death from being investigated
The producers have mentioned that they do not want a blanket media gag against any investigation as their aim in filing this law suit is only to make the channels "withdraw, recall and take down all the defamatory content published by them against Bollywood".
The crux of the debate here is not picking a side and deciding if you're Team #Breakbollywoodsdrugnexus or Team #NewsChannelfreedomofspeech. The focus should be our countries declining GDP, the caste and gender based violence and number of covid rising infections and not the debauched habits of celebrities. The media should be able do its job of reporting any leads in the death of SSR without any hindrances but that's exactly what it should stick to- reporting and not conducting biased media trials!