Malayalam cinema has a new villain to deal with - substance abuse in the name of creativity. A drug mafia thrives beside the movie industry in Kerala as celebrities smoke up to their heart’s content. Production unit drivers to bouncers, everyone cashes in on the demand for ganja and other narcotics.
The small-time carriers netted by police and excise officers have revealed that actors make great customers. They are always wanting and they pay like hell. There are other perks of being close to celebrities. Cops who trapped a carrier in Kochi were flummoxed by a call from a celebrity, who pleaded the police to let go of the supplier. The stuff was intended to enhance his acting it seems.
The celebrity circles have their dedicated channels to source ganja and narcotics. A native of Ernakulam has assumed the role of a wholesale supplier ever since he married the daughter of a don in Goa. In Kochi, he was protected by a superintendent of police. The officer has since retired but he is still close to the drug carrier.
The supplier caters mainly to the people in the movie circles. A producer is key to the trade. The businessman is only happy to let the dealers use his hotel premises. The police had zeroed in on the producer a couple of times but he proved too big to be nabbed.
Goa remains movie makers’ favorite destination for good reason. When the police step up the heat on drug peddlers, the entire production unit is shifted to Goa to ensure a steady supply of drugs.
This illicit affairs provide a fertile ground for criminals such as Sunil Kumar aka ‘Pulsar’ Suni, who is accused of torturing an actress on a highway near Angamaly in February. The police have reasons to believe that Suni had worked in Goa as a link between the drug lords and their celebrity customers in Kerala.
Drivers like Suni become closer to the actors by being around for any shady business. They are often admitted to the closed-door parties where alcohol and other intoxicating substances flow freely. The drivers gradually gains more control over the celebrities because they have witnessed a lot of unguarded moments.
Caravan of intoxication
Caravans parked around movie sets often turn dens of smoke. The motor homes are brought in by the producer for the actors to freshen up and change costumes.
A producer was faced with a strange complaint. Whenever a new-gen actor left the caravan after a few minutes in it, the room would be filled with ganja smoke. The producer checked and found the complaint of the co-actors to be true.
Actors are assured of a steady supply anywhere anytime.
When an actor and an actress from Mumbai came to a location in Kerala, their first demand was for ganja. The production controller said a firm no. He said he did not want to go to jail.
Two days later, the production controller was shocked to see the couple locked in an oblivious embrace on the corridor of the hotel. They had found what they wanted. The drug dealers could get past the production controller to reach their customers.
The new-gen movie makers prefer to discuss stories and do all post-production work in Kochi’s apartments. They give the hotels and studios a miss because places of residence offers them a safe corner to indulge in intoxication.
Such a binge wasted a screen writer so much that he tried to molest a neighbor in the elevator. The other residents in the apartment rushed in to save the woman. The script writer has been sentenced to imprisonment for five years.
Everyone knows that actors are heavily into drug abuse. Yet only one case has been registered so far. Shine Tom Chacko was unlucky to have been caught with drugs from a flat in Kochi. Chacko’s companion got access to the flat from a contact she made during a night party in Kochi. The contact himself is a murder accused.
Substance abuse have derailed projects. A producer was ruined by a group of youngsters who were supposed to make a movie for him. The producer has spent Rs 3 crore on the project which features a young star.
The director and 12 assistants were youngsters too. The director, the cameraman and the 12 assistants were more into smoking than shooting. The shooting eventually stalled. The producer has been waiting for a year for someone to finish the remaining work on the project.
He had already spent a fortune on 60 days of shooting in Wayanad and Kochi. The sets have ruined. He will have to build it all over again to shoot the climax.
Substance abuse has become a trend. “You have to go along if you want to be in the business. Friendship is all important,” a young actor said.
As soon as actor Dileep was summoned to the Aluva police club, some of his colleagues rushed to a senior actor. They said Dileep was innocent and pleaded with the star to intervene on his behalf.
The star made some calls to Thiruvananthapuram and Dileep was spared for a few days at least. An actors’ lobby based in central Kerala had been trying to ward off an arrest. This lobby can influence in a lot of areas including government employees’ transfer to government policies.
The central Kerala lobby has become more powerful than the Thiruvananthapuram lobby it seems.
People in the showbiz often venture to other businesses. When real estate and other deals become shady, they seek patronage from political leaders. Their move is tactical. Involve politicians and policemen in their deals and be safe.
Some policemen are all too excited about the company of actors, as proved by a photograph circulated on social media a year ago.
A group of youngsters were waiting near Munnar to take a picture of an elephant when a police jeep entered the scene. The police officer was accompanied by a movie star. The actor was on a high. He even posed for a photo along with the young men.
The star had bought a piece of land in the hills. He had a standing dispute with his neighbor. The actor tried to intimidate the neighbor, who responded by filing a police complaint. The actor just wanted to show off his connections to anyone who thought of lodging another complaint.
A former on-screen baddie runs a great many quarries across Kerala in partnership with a top IPS officer. The duo even has a tourist resort in Thailand.
Blinded by glitz
The glamorous world of cinema is too tempting to resist for at least some of the police, excise and motor vehicle inspectors.
Dozens of officers, ranging from an ADGP to civil police officers, are awaiting government sanction to act in movies. Many officers are content by appearing as a guest in movies. Some superintendents of police and inspectors are familiar faces in movies.
They pay back for the moment of fame by offering some benefits to the movie makers and actors. Several stars are given a ride in a police car from the Kochi airport to the city so that they don’t languish in the traffic snarls.
Movie makers are forever in demand in the power circles. A leading director who was shooting in a jail was given a warm reception by a jail honcho. He was given whatever he wanted.
The officer even took him job to a sumptuous feast. As the director sat wondering what had he done to deserve such hospitality, the officer put forward his demand. His wife had an excellent story. You could make it into a movie!
(To be continued...)
(Reported by Unni K Warrier, Renji Kuriakose, R Krishna Raj and Joji Simon; Compiled by Tony Jose)