Unlike the sordid saga of the Mukerjea family, the death of actress Sridevi does not come across as a page-three affair. To begin with, a popular film actor is known to crores of people in the country and internationally, unlike the identities of television channel owners, fashion designers, boutique runners, hairdressers, second rung corporate management officials, etc who are not known beyond the circle of their peers. Sridevi’s is not a story of a child from a previous marriage turning ‘unruly’ only to invite the ire of her biological and foster parents, one of whom ends up killing the child. When fans of the actress say the theory of the Dubai Police is not adding up, it is therefore surprising that a bunch of social media commentators should accuse the media of turning frivolous.
The media critics ought to know that even a no-nonsense, reputed and India’s largest news agency, the Press Trust of India, has remarked in one of its reports: “It is not clear what caused the actor to lose consciousness, and whether the initial report of her death due to cardiac arrest still holds.” The authorities in Dubai may not be wholly sanguine about their prima facie observations either. Not only was the actress’s filmmaker-husband grilled for 18 long hours by their police; “the investigation is still going on to determine the circumstances surrounding the accident as the forensic report only says that she drowned,” an official told Gulf News.
Not all are painting the media with a stroke of one broad brush, though. Journalist and gay rights activist Ashok Row Kavi quotes media commentator Sharad Bailur on Facebook, thus: “The timeline smells of rats, fish and all else in between: He (Boney Kapoor) ‘comes back from Mumbai to surprise his wife, at 5:30 PM, talks to her for 15 min, after which she goes for a bath. He claims she did not emerge from the bath and he went in. Time not given! Finds her in the tub (submerged or not is not clear) — some say on the floor and unresponsive. Tries to revive her, does not succeed, calls friends; finally calls a hospital. Now, note this — at 9:30 PM.” [Edited]
“For four long hours,” the questioner continues, “he was reviving his wife without medical help. So what were he and his friend(s) doing for that long? And who was his friend? More to the point: What was the conversation he had had with his wife during those 15 min after 5:30 PM? Why had he gone to Mumbai? Whom did he meet there? Where did he meet those people? What did he talk with them? For how long did he meet them? What, apart from the conversation, was involved during the Mumbai trip? No. I’m sorry. The stink is unrelenting.” [Edited]
Are these not legitimate questions that arise from a scene that smacks of a crime? More so when the ‘victim’ has been a heartthrob of a generation, and when most believe 54 years is no age to die? Even more so when Indians are not quite aware of how the law works in the United Arab Emirates, in a hotel of which Sridevi was found dead. The people of India find it amusing that the death certificate, where “drowning” is spelt as “drawning”, should be issued by the director of preventive medicine even though, for the sake of deportation of the mortal remains, it may well be cleared by the host country’s ministry of health.
Of course, some television anchors have gone over the top, but they haven’t done so for this case in particular; this is the style they are known for. Social media warriors hardly have the moral right to question Arnab Goswami, before whom they had gone about the town declaring Sridevi to be a victim of cosmetic surgeries, fat-reducing drugs and even cocaine. A few technically oriented among them described at length in their posts how a cardiac arrest was different from a heart attack. And when the Dubai Police said Sridevi had drowned to death, they presumed she had drowned in a state of inebriation. Then somebody remarked there was a problem with Boney Kapoor’s kundli (astrological birth chart). They held the stars responsible for eliminating Arjun Kapoor’s mother before the release of his first film and Jhanvi Kapoor’s before the release of hers! Why these double standards? If only the superfluous are supposed to discuss the death of a celebrity, why are you indulging in the same?
As for the film fraternity taking umbrage at the “sensationalism”, we all know how they flock together to ensure the next project (a film or a song) comes their way. Did we not see how they stuck around with Salman Khan when he was being tried for mowing down some poor chaps sleeping on a pavement under his sports utility vehicle?
Then, the socialite among socialists pitches in. Amar Singh says he had not known Sridevi as a consumer of hard drinks; she would occasionally have wine, the former Samajwadi Party leader recalls. While television laps it up, few remember that, beyond the photo opportunities, the actress and the part-time politician did not enjoy a cosy relationship. There was an occasion when the two were left unattended in a room. When their mutual friends came back, they found Sridevi and Singh in two corners of the large hall, immersed in different books. The actress used to be so uncomfortable in the company of the politician that it is unlikely he would be acquainted with her drinks.
But if the conspiracy theories are taking us in the direction of the case of Sunanda Pushkar’s murder, no attributable motive such as the alleged scams of the Indian Premier League has emerged as of now. So, in comes Subramanian Swamy with the theory that Sridevi must have been forced to consume alcohol and then she was forced into the bathtub and the angle that the law enforcement agencies must probe is Bollywood’s truck with infamous Dawood Ibrahim! This is plausible for sure. This Kapoor family has been known to hobnob with the gangster-terrorist in the past. Maybe the 1980s-90s are not behind them as yet. If Swamy has got it right, the issue has national security implications. The mystery no longer remains an interest of Hindi cinema aficionados alone.
Finally, if it’s a crime, the criminal must not go unpunished. If the matter does not interest you, there are other sections of the newspaper, television channel or news websites for you to follow. If you are a consumer of serious stories, do spare a thought also to the seriousness of comments you post with links to reports on political and economic affairs. Spare the fans of Sridevi their right to suspect some foul play in her death. Even if all the hypotheses prove wrong, conspiracy theories will remain a psychological tool for human beings to come to terms with the sudden void created by the departure of someone they loved. The theorists loved Sridevi; disbelief might well be their way to cope with her demise. Don’t we sometimes attribute the sudden passing of a close relation to medical negligence even when the death was natural?