A year of controversies galore

Bollywood, in 2020, has seen more controversies than comebacks and received way more brickbats than blockbusters, but not all was bleak

It’s not every year that we see the mysterious death of a Bollywood star taking the nation by storm. It’s not a usual sight to witness a B-town leading lady being probed by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB). And it’s definitely not common for cinema halls to remain shut for almost seven months! Well this year, after all, was nothing like we have seen before ever – as Bollywood remained in the eye of the storm – reeling under an endless saga of controversies.

When in March 2020 the pandemic hit India, the entertainment industry was among the worst hit sectors. Cinema halls were not functional till October – resulting in huge losses in Bollywood. Film projects came to a halt and many from the industry lost their jobs. Amid all this, the only saving grace were the OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, Zee5, among others.

For the first time, OTT platforms were being used as a stage to premier big films. And soon enough, most of the films – that were primarily made for theatre releases – were seen on small screens. Even after the theatres began opening up in late October, owing to low footfalls – the small screen is still preferred over the big screen for releases.

Then in the month of June, the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput shook the entire nation. Initially it was declared a suicide, but later theories of murder started doing the rounds. The prime time TV news channels fuelled these theories further, and even a CBI probe was held. What’s unfortunate, other than the fact that the death of a star became ‘sensational’ news, is that the late actor’s partner Rhea Chakraborty became the victim of a brutal witch-hunt. She and her brother even went behind bars, that too on charges which has nothing to do with the death.

The ever-debatable topic of nepotism in Bollywood yet again resurfaced amid all this chaos. It was actor Kangana Ranaut who first ushered it into limelight in 2017, and again in 2020 she was the one to bring it back from the grave. This time, she linked it to Rajput’s death and all hell broke loose.

What followed is a series of accusations on filmmakers Karan Johar, Sanjay Leela Bhansali and others – who were accused of being behind Rajput’s deteriorating mental health. Then, Twitter turned into a platform for venting hate and trolling. Followers of actors from film families like Alia Bhatt, Sonakshi Sinha, Sonam Kapoor, among others not only received backlash but even their number of followers decreased. There was much hate all around, but that was just the beginning.

In the month of September, a drug angle was the new turn the Sushant case took. And no sooner, B-town’s leading lady Deepika Padukone, along with other actors like Shraddha Kapoor, Sara Ali Khan, Rakul Preet, among others, were probed by NCB. Stories of Bollywood drug parties came to the forefront, and the industry received backlash from netizens and media alike.

While Ranaut continued with her Bollywood bashing, some celebrities thought ‘Enough is enough’ and came forward to clean up the mess – at least some of it! Veterans like Naseeruddin Shah and Javed Akhtar openly criticised Ranaut’s “defaming” of the film industry. The Producers Guild of India also resorted to an open letter, slamming the relentless attacks on the reputation of the Indian film industry. It read, “The tragic death of a promising young star has been used by some as a tool to defame and slander the film industry and its members.”

Sonu Sood emerged as a ‘hero’ after he lended helping hands to migrant labourers amid lockdown

Even amid all these negativities, some actors showed that humanity still exists. Many celebrities like Shibani Dandekar, Vidya Balan , to name a few, came forward to bash the witch-hunt that Chakraborty was subjected to. Actor Sonu Sood came forward to help the migrant labourers return home amidst the lockdown, and this heroic gesture was appreciated by the entire nation. Singer-actor Diljeet Dosanjh boldly shut down Ranaut and earns kudos for his open support to farmers during their protests.

Interestingly, at a time when film production took a big hit and movie theatres were shut, there was never a dent in the flow of films and web shows. Especially, what’s impressive is there was some truly remarkable content that 2020 saw – despite all the odds. From web series like Pataal Lok, Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story, Panchayat, Mirzapur 2 to films like Ludo, Bhonsle, Gulabo Sitabo, Choked, Bulbbul, to name a few – content was definitely  king this year.

What’s more fascinating is that some actors received their dues owing to the much-deserved visibility they got on OTT platforms. Be it actors like Jaideep Ahlawat, Jimmy Shergill, Kay Kay Menon, Raghubir Yadav, Sushmita Sen, Divyendu Sharma – who finally got “noticed” after years in the industry; or be it those like Pratik Gandhi, Tripti Dimri, Abhishek Banerjee, Sumukhi Suresh, among others who got their first big break even on the small screen and made heads turn.

And now, even when our fight with the global pandemic continues, the film industry is getting back at its feet – one step at a time. Film shoots resumed as early as September and even against all odds the fraternity has been holding it up well. As we enter 2021, let’s hope for better content, bigger breakthroughs and a houseful cinema halls filled with movie lovers yet again witnessing the charm of the big screen!

(Cover Photo: Rhea Chakraborty was subjected to witch hunt after her partner Sushant Singh Rajput’s death)

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