Is the movie industry hooked to drugs?

Is the movie industry hooked to drugs?

From the use of drugs in the film industry for enhancing performance and creativity to the portrayal of drugs in films, the Indian film industry has blotted its copybook a bit too often

Films such as ‘Udta Punjab’ delve deep into the world of drugs.

Art and drugs have had an everlasting bond. From the era of cave paintings to the age of Western literature’s most significant contributor – Shakespeare, to Pablo Picasso’s Rose Period, to the present day “drug culture” in the film industry, substance abuse has always lurked around the corner.

Addiction today is recognised as a disease by the World Health Organisation. As it is becoming a worldwide trend, the film industry remains one of many fields plagued by substance abuse. As the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) probed to unearth the alleged “Bollywood-drugs” nexus, the elephant in the room was put in the spotlight in the past year.   From the use of drugs in the film industry for enhancing performance and creativity to the portrayal of drugs in films, the Indian film industry has blotted its copybook a bit too many times. 

Metrolife spoke to a cross-section of the film fraternity to know more about what goes on behind the silver screen.

Film director KM Chaitanya says, “I do not believe that people in the film business are more into drug abuse than any other industry. Drugs have been a part of every industry. I have mostly been associated with the Kannada film industry, so I can only speak for myself. I can tell you that the pay scale is not as high in the Kannada film industry as it is in our neighbouring film industries like Tamil and Telugu. If you leave some top actors, the pay scale of others is not very large, and the people here come from all backgrounds and have many aspirations. Drugs are an expensive affair, and since the pay scale is not too large, people in the Kannada film industry are not very spoiled.”

Film director Mayuraa Raghavendra says, “People from the film industry are public figures and people follow them closely, so even the smallest of the smallest things get blown out of proportion, and that gives the industry a bad name. As far as the portrayal of drugs in films is concerned, we can talk about cinematic liberty. At the end of the day, what message is being given through the film is important. Cinema is reality’s exaggerated mode. There is a difference between the cinema world and the real world, and people need to understand that. At the end of the film, if the message goes out such as it is very good to indulge in drugs, then it is problematic. However, if we are showing and addressing a disorder and how a person has suffered, then it is granted.”

When asked about the link between the portrayal of drugs and toxic masculinity in Indian films, KM Chaitanya added, “If the portrayal of drugs is being attached with the idea of toxic masculinity, as is the case with most action genre films, where the actor is seen with a cigarette or a drink in hand after beating up villains, then I feel that it is good, as people will learn to avoid both. Toxic masculinity is as harmful as drug abuse. But the audience has to be a little mature to look at it from that perspective.”

Many artists claim that substance use enhances their performance or facilitates their art in some way. Director Saad Khan, who wears multiple hats, as he writes and performs comedy, and writes drama too, apart from directing films, and has worked in the industry in the US, Mumbai and in Bengaluru, says that the use of drugs to enhance creativity is subjective. “I personally never had to turn to a substance to enhance my creativity or performance. I am a teetotaller. But for some people, it works, and I am nobody to judge somebody who is creating good art."

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox