It’s time for Bollywood celebrities to stop glamourising and normalising drug abuse-Entertainment News , Firstpost
Substance abuse is a complex issue and with Bollywood being the focus of all media, celebrities should behave responsibly and display social behavior that inspires creativity in young people.
“If you take the high out of art, most of the art will be uncreated,” a senior creative director once shared this frightening fact of the creative life while rolling a marijuana joint. I was a trainee in one of the largest advertising agencies in the world, fresh from a value-oriented middle class family, a khadi, purely vegetarian Brahmanin teacher from a small town. That was my first culture shock.
Marijuana was then either a necessity of the poor or a privilege of the rich. And escapade for the creative souls. Little did I know then that soon I would be part of the same culture – the culture of addiction.
Since ancient times, poets, painters, musicians, writers, actors, etc. have been associated with wine and women. Many great artists have died of either addiction or syphilis. When I got into the entertainment business, anyone who smoked marijuana was despised. In general, theatrical performers smoked weed because of its cheap prices. But not many film artists. They drank Black Label. Almost all of them were alcoholics. Alcohol was celebrated. Alcoholics, more than that. Most people are into drugs these days, and alcohol is just a cute old cousin.
“Millions of Indians are addicted to alcohol, cannabis and opiates, and substance abuse is a widespread phenomenon in Indian society,” said a report jointly published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Indian Ministry of Social Justice. According to this report, cannabis, heroin and opium are the most commonly used drugs in India, but methamphetamine is also increasing. The number of drug users has also risen sharply. One million heroin users are registered in India, the total estimate is five million users. Approximately 2.8 percent of Indians aged 10 to 75 (3.1 million people) use cannabis (bhang, ganja and charas).
These users come from all walks of life spread across India. Then why are Bollywood and its stars blamed for the exponential rise in substance abuse? Instead of the entertainment and music industry, I use the brand ‘Bollywood’ because it means everything in entertainment today. There are 25,000 drug addict schoolchildren in Delhi. In some cases, even 8-year-old children. Shouldn’t the state, school, society and parents be responsible for making an 8-year-old child addicted to cocaine? How can anyone else say that Bollywood is responsible for the growing addiction among the youth? Because most of the time it’s true.
Also read: The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Kids: Why Aryan Khan’s Media Trial Is Unfair, But Hardly Surprising
If you look around you will find that substance use has become deeply ingrained in our cultures over the past decade. Imagine a festive event, from the birth of a child to your grandparents’ 90th birthday, to political events and religious events, with no beer sellers or a wedding without champagne toast, Bollywood fashion, Bollywood songs and Bollywood Dance.
Drug and alcohol acceptance has become so widespread from films and music that glorifies and romanticizes addiction that it becomes a compulsive MOFO. MOFO because you are bombarded by the occasional use of drugs and alcohol in movies and music. According to some American evidence of the spate of drug and alcohol use across the entertainment world, include:
- Almost half of all music videos contain drugs, including alcohol (35 percent), tobacco (10 percent), and illegal drugs (13 percent).
- A drinking scene is shown on television every 22 minutes, a smoking scene every 57 minutes and a scene of illegal drug use every 112 minutes.
- 71 percent of prime-time television programs show alcohol consumption, 19 percent tobacco use, 20 percent illicit drug use and three percent illicit drug use.
- More than 1/3 of all drinking scenes in TV shows are humorous, while less than 1/4 of the drinking scenes show negative consequences.
- The average teen is exposed to nearly 85 drug references in popular music every day.
- 40 percent of profiles on social networking websites point to substance abuse.
There are many studies that show that movies, television and music can have a major impact on the decisions of children, adolescents and adults. The actions of celebrities have a huge impact on our decisions.
Recent research in neuroscience has found that celebrities activate regions of the brain that are involved in creating positive associations, building trust, and encoding memories. In this regard, our sources of entertainment add significantly to the risk of substance use. Some of the research that supports this influence are:
- Exposure to film displays of alcohol strongly predicts the early onset of alcohol consumption and binge drinking in adolescents.
- Increased use of popular music has been linked to marijuana use.
- Teens who watch adult films are six times more likely to try marijuana.
- Teenagers who spend time on social networking sites are twice as likely to use marijuana than teenagers who do not visit those sites.
- Studies have also shown that celebrities’ actions can greatly influence public health decisions.
Nowadays the media devotes hours and pages to cover the lifestyle and parties of celebrities. Recently, during the COVID-19 In the pandemic, many celebrities posted their vacation photos in the Maldives and as soon as the travel restrictions were lifted, the island nation was inundated by young, medium-sized Indian tourists.
The lifestyle of the rich and famous often includes heavy drinking, illegal drug use, and risky behavior. The problem with the spotlight is that it comes with a lot of pressure and judgment from others. Since not everyone can deal with it successfully, they resort to drugs or alcohol instead. The Agency for Substance Abuse and Mental Health (SAMHSA) estimates that in the arts, entertainment and leisure industries, 13.7 percent of people used an illicit drug in the past month.
Movies aren’t the only source of drug addiction in the entertainment industry. Many artists sing about drug use in their songs and almost seem to brag. As a director on the board of directors of CBFC, I have reviewed many Punjabi and Hindi songs that glorify the youth and promote alcohol and drugs.
It’s no secret that many celebrities are addicted to drug use. Famous singers, rappers, actors, and others in the entertainment industry are generally open about their habits, and this is evident from their music and documented social behaviors. We’ve seen it on TV shows, movies, music videos, and even in their personal content on social media. Whether drug use is obvious or has a purpose in an act, both aspects raise the question: Does Bollywood culture glorify drug abuse? The answer is a resounding “yes”.
What comes to mind when you think of Bollywood or any other entertainment industry? Celebrities with glamorous lifestyle, money, parties, designer clothes, luxury cars, sex and addictions. Celebrities are often seen doing social activities that include trips, club appearances, parties, paid vacations, etc. Two things that are common on all of these outings are drugs and alcohol. Young people who are easily influenced are led to believe that:
- Success gives you the right to use substance confidently
- Celebrities do, so can you too
- Drugs and alcohol don’t interfere with your life, so it won’t adversely affect your own
When Miley Cyrus posts photos of herself on Instagram with hashtags like “#drugaddict” and “#alkoholic” or the rappers Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg constantly post and discuss their affinity for marijuana, such content leads to a normalization of substance abuse.
I think substance abuse is a complex topic and with Bollywood being the focus of all media attention, it is important and wise that celebrities behave responsibly and display social behavior that inspires young people to be creative, and filmmakers be careful not to glamorous or normalize substance abuse. I’m sure today Shah Rukh Khan and Aryan Khan would agree with me.
The author is a nationally award-winning filmmaker, best-selling author, and creative guru. He tweeted @vivekagnihotri. Views expressed are personal.