Why is Bollywood the New Enemy? Film Executive Held in Drug Case Says Was Forced to Implicate Karan Johar

Bollywood

Why is Bollywood the New Enemy? Film Executive Held in Drug Case Says Was Forced to Implicate Karan Johar

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

The Narcotics Control Bureau’s (NCB) ever-widening investigation into drug use in Bollywood ran into a hurdle today. Film executive Kshitij Prasad, who was arrested by the NCB last week, told a Mumbai court through his lawyer that he was “harassed and blackmailed” by officers of the drug agency into making a statement implicating, among others, director and producer Karan Johar.

On Saturday, after Prasad’s arrest, Johar put out a statement declaring that he did not know Prasad personally. Prasad joined Dharmatic Entertainment, a company linked to Dharma Productions, in November 2019 as one of the executive producers on contract basis. However, the project did not materialise, Johar had said.

Appearing for Prasad, lawyer Satish Maneshinde told the court that his client had been “traumatised” by his treatment during the interrogation, and named NCB officer Sameer Wankhede in his statement.

The lawyer told the court that Wankhede had prevented Prasad from contacting his family or his legal representative while holding him for interrogation for over 50 hours. He provided details of how NCB officers treated Prasad during the interrogation. “Sameer Wankhede told him (Kshitij Prasad) that since he did not want to cooperate, he would teach him a lesson and made him sit on the floor next to his chair. Sameer Wankhede then put the shoe of his foot near Kshitij’s face and proclaimed that this was his true aukad (status),” he said in his statement to the court.

The NCB has denied Prasad’s allegations, countering that the entire investigation is being conducted in a professional manner. An Indian Express report carried the NCB officers’ rebuttals to the claims. Deputy Director-General of the NCB, Mutha Ashok Jain, said, “There is no intended target other than what is revealed during the investigation. The allegations (by Prasad) are absolutely untrue.” Meanwhile Wankhede, who was named by Prasad’s lawyer, was quoted as saying, “It is routine practice on the part of the accused to make such allegations.”

The allegations, if true, raise questions about the manner in which this investigation is being pursued. After the probe began in the wake of the death of Sushant Singh Rajput, and the arrest of Rhea Chakraborty on drug charges, 20 people have been arrested by the NCB. Actresses Deepika Padukone, Sara Ali Khan, and Shraddha Kapoor have also been probed on the basis of WhatsApp conversations from 2017. As more and more details emerge about the NCB investigation, one wonders if this indeed a drug clean-up or simply a witch-hunt.

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