The Telugu film industry in Hyderabad, known as Tollywood, was shocked on Friday when several actors were issued notices by the Telangana Excise (Enforcement) Department to appear before it in relation to investigation in the drug racket that was busted on July 4.
The Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Excise department has called at least 12 film personalities including six actors and one director to give their statements in connection with the ongoing investigation. They have been issued notices to appear before the SIT at its office between July 19 and 27. The notices were issued based on confessions of the 12 persons arrested so far in the huge drug racket that has been busted by the Excise Department on July 4.
“We have given notices to a few persons who we think are involved in drug and substance abuse. We want to record their statements so we have called them to appear before the SIT,” Telangana Excise (Enforcement) Director Akun Sabharwal said.
Officials said that among those who have been called for investigation is Tollywood’s top director Puri Jagannath who has directed 39 films including blockbusters like ‘Pokiri’. Others include top actor Ravi Teja, and P Navdeep, Tarun Kumar, A Tanish and P Subbaraju; actress Charmee Kaur, supporting actress Mumait Khan, cinematographer Shyam K Naidu, singer Ananda Krishna Nandu, art director Chinna N Dharmarao.
Personal mobile phone numbers of these film personalities were also found in the mobile phones seized from one of the culprits, Calvin Mascaranhas, who was allegedly supplying drugs to school and college children, along with at least nine other gang members, all of whom have been arrested. Officials suspect that the high-profile gang was peddling Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) also commonly called acid and molly or molecule. On Wednesday, a 29-year-old Indian-American aerospace engineer who earlier worked for NASA was for peddling drugs in Hyderabad. His partner Ritul Agarwal was also arrested.
Tollywood was shocked with the revelation of popular actor Ravi Teja’s name. His brother Bharath Raj who died in a high speed car crash on June 26 was allegedly a drug user but Ravi Teja’s image was always clean. Ravi Teja, Puri Jagannath and Charmee Kaur have denied anything to do with drugs and the racket in separate statements today.
The Movie Artists Association (MAA) representing the Telugu film industry had earlier issued an advisory and warning to film starts and those associated with the film industry to refrain from using drugs. MAA President Sivaji Raja said that drug users are not only ruining their lives but also bringing a bad name to the film industry. Producer Allu Aravind issued a warning that authorities wont spare anyone found to be involved in the drug racket. “The industry is clean except for a few individuals who are spoiling the image of the Telugu film industry. We will give our full cooperation to the drug investigation,” he said.