Why Bollywood power players are going after Indian media

by | Nov 10, 2020 | Public Relations

Headlines across the world recently announced that some of the top filmmakers in Bollywood, based in India’s film industry capital, Mumbai, have filed a lawsuit accusing two TV news channels of “irresponsible, derogatory, and defamatory remarks…”

According to media reports about the suit, the legal action is the culmination of several months of two different news channels going hard after Bollywood, making a series of allegations related to the death of actor Sushant Rajput, which was ruled a suicide. Most of the reports tended toward speculation by news personalities who openly wondered if, perhaps, Rajput’s suicide was related to rejection by filmmakers, who had chosen other actors for various roles.

And that wasn’t all the stations speculated about

The news channels openly wondered if certain Bollywood celebrities were part of a drug cartel, which, they speculated, might have been another reason why Rajput took his own life. At least, this story has some tangible roots, as India’s federal narcotics agency is currently looking into widespread reports of drug trafficking in Bollywood. Meanwhile, investigators are, reportedly, still looking into Rajput’s death, though suicide is considered the cause.

The lawsuit includes some who are being called “some of Bollywood’s biggest stars,” including Akshay Kumar, Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, and Shah Rukh Khan, who are, collectively, suing Republic TV and Times Now. Speaking about the news channels, the plaintiffs’ complaint states: “These defendants are conducting and publishing parallel private investigations and effectively acting as courts to condemn persons connected with Bollywood as guilty based on what they claim is evidence, found by them…”

According to the complaint, the plaintiffs wish to recover “redress against the irresponsible, derogatory, and defamatory reporting…” they accuse these news channels of conducting. While, as of this writing, the channels have not officially responded publicly, one senior editor at Times Now, Navika Kumar, said they were ready for the fight: “If fighting for justice invites court cases, bring it on!”

The lawsuit is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg for Indian media

Some critics say it has been in decline, with televised conversations between commentators becoming more strident and accusations toward public figures becoming more speculative. It’s an interesting consumer PR experiment because India is thought to have one of the world’s most competitive media environments, with hundreds of different news channels fighting for viewers. Each channel has to do something to try to stand out and gain an audience. That, some say, leads to more “outlandish” spectacle… and, now, to lawsuits.

Brand after brand is planting a flag, trying to attract a larger, loyal audience. Both the legal and media public relations ramifications of this story will be interesting to follow.

Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian founded 5WPR, a leading PR agency..