Bollywood may be known for its glossy musicals and perfectly toned actors, but the arrest of superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan on October 3, following a drug bust aboard a cruise ship, serves as a searing reminder about how on-screen idols and their off-springs are taking ignominious public tumbles.
Their lives -- seemingly fuelled by wealth, parties and privilege -- are usually on full display that can also sometimes reveal the seamier side of show business.
On Sunday, the world woke up to the news of Shah Rukh’s eldest son Aryan, 23, had been detained along with seven others following a raid spearheaded by the Narcotics Control Bureau.
The NCB was acting on a tip-off, claim media reports. After a 22-hour-long interrogation at the NCB office in Mumbai, Aryan was arrested and reportedly booked under sections 8C, 20B, 27 and 35 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.
According to reports, the NCB boarded the ship disguised as passengers and found that illegal substances were being consumed by guests during their three-day cruise from Mumbai to Goa.
In a statement by the NCB to the local press, the team claimed drugs such as cocaine MDMA, mephedrone, and ecstasy were allegedly recovered from the bust on the ship.
Aryan's famous father Shah Rukh , one of the most influential actors in Bollywood, is yet to comment on the issue, but this high-profile arrest of his son and several others is not the first incident related to drugs and celebrities which have marred Bollywood.
The nexus between Bollywood and drugs seems to be as old as the romances that have been peddled in Hindi films.
So how did NCB become a part of Bollywood stars’ and movie fans lexicon?
In June 2020, the sudden death of beloved actor Sushant Singh Rajput, who was found hanging from his home in Mumbai, brought Bollywood under the scanner, especially with India’s anti-drug agency.
His sudden death -- which is still under investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation in India – gave birth to several off-shoot investigations – primarily about the issue of habitual substance abuse in Bollywood. His girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty was arrested by the NCB after she was accused of procuring drugs for Rajput. The NCB had labelled her an ‘active member of a drug syndicate’, while Chakraborty, out on bail, has denied the allegations.
Before Aryan’s arrest , there were several Bollywood stars enjoying varying degree of fame and popularity who came under the NCB’s radar.
Bollywood superstar and mental health advocate Deepika Padukone – who made her debut with Shah Rukh Khan in ‘Om Shanti Om' – was summoned for questioning by the NCB after a series of her private WhatsApp conversations in 2017 about procuring drugs were broadcast on national television. A conversation about getting a hash fix with her manager splayed on prime-time news shows preceded her being questioned by the NCB.
Padukone wasn’t the only high-profile name that came under the NCB scanner. Rajput’s co-star and actors Saif Ali Khan and Amrita Singh’s daughter Sara Ali Khan, Shakti Kapoor’s daughter Shraddha Kapoor, and actress Rakul Preet Singh were also summoned for questioning by the NCB.
Apart from these popular actors, Dharma Productions director and executive producer Kshitji Ravi Prasad was also called in for questioning by the NCB. All these actors have denied any wrong doing, while NCB has repeatedly claimed that they were acting based on their investigations with drug peddlers and tip-offs.
Former model and National Award-winning actor Arjun Rampal and his partner Gabriella Demetriades were also questioned by NCB officials after the actor’s residence in Bandra was searched by the agency. Subsequently, Gabriella’s brother Agisilaos Demetriades was arrested by the NCB last month after the 30-year-old South African was found in possession of banned drugs in Goa. But the actor issued a statement claiming they have no connection to the arrest.
“It’s unfortunate that my name is being unnecessarily dragged in every publication though I have no association whatsoever. As far as my family and I are concerned, my direct family and I are law-abiding citizens. And while the incident involves a person who is a relative of my partner, I have no other connection or relationship other than that with this person,” said Rampal, distancing himself in the matter.
In August, actor Armaan Kohli’s home was searched and during the raid 1.2 grams of cocaine were seized. He’s now in judicial custody and is seeking bail.
Rewind back a little bit more and in 2020 Indian comedian Bharti Singh and her husband Haarsh Limbachiya’s residence was searched and 86.5 gm of marijuana was seized. After being questioned by the NCB, they both confessed to drug consumption.
In 2001, Bollywood star Fardeen Khan was released on bail after he was found buying cocaine. While the story of actors and drug dependence remain a constant over the years, it’s only the players and the faces that seem to be changing.
With Aryan, the NCB has reportedly charged him with consumption of drugs and it is unclear whether this sordid episode could mar his growth in show business even before it has begun. Aryan is yet to make his film debut or make good on his directorial ambitions, but this drug bust episode culminating in his arrest has attracted attention that rivals a star son’s launch in Bollywood.
Who's Aryan Khan?
Until October 3, Aryan Khan was best known as Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan’s oldest son who bore an uncanny resemblance to his superstar father.
But his identity saw a tectonic shift when news emerged that the 23-year-old was arrested by Narcotics Control Bureau in Mumbai following a drug bust aboard a cruise ship headed for Goa.
Aryan, whose Instagram account is filled with pictures of him with his friends, is among eight passengers who were questioned by the authorities for more than 22 hours before he was formally arrested.
Aryan isn’t one of those celebrity kids who thrives on over-sharing their lives on social media. His posts on his verified Instagram account are sparse and usually feature him looking carefully careless and cool.
Like most twenty-something young men his age, cracking a goofy smile isn’t a part of his online persona.
There’s very little known about him, but here’s what we know so far: he’s an aspiring film director and isn’t keen on being in front of the camera.
As a kid, he was a part of a Karan Johar’s glossy family drama ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham’ in which he played the role of his father’s character’s younger self. A scene of him as a young boy in Johar’s ‘Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna’ didn’t make it past the edit table.
Aryan, whose best friends include Sanjay and Maheep Kapoor’s daughter Shanaya Kapoor and Ahaan Panday, was born in New Delhi and is a portrait of a privileged Bollywood star-kid with immense access to wealth, pedigree, and powerful friends.
Aryan did his schooling from London’s Sevenoaks and his classmates included Amitabh Bachchan’s grand daughter Navya Naveli Nanda. He later attended the University of Southern California and revealed on his Instagram account that he had successfully graduated.
His lack of inclination to feature in front of the camera is evident by his recent career moves. Recently, he did a voice-over for the character of ‘Simba’ in the Hindi version of the Hollywood hit ‘The Lion King’ and his father gave voice to Mufasa in the same film. In 2004, he dubbed the dialogues for his character in ‘Hum Lajawab Hain’ and also received an award as the best dubbing child artist for the same.
While Aryan is yet to give his first interview to the media, his father Shah Rukh Khan — known for his witty demeanour — has always been open about his close bond with his children. In David Letterman’s show ‘My Next Guest Needs No Introduction’, Shah Rukh Khan spoke extensively about his children.
“He looks nice, he’s tall and...okay. But I don’t think he has what it takes perhaps and he realises that himself. But he is a good writer,” said the doting father. In several interviews, Shah Rukh also made it clear that his son is keen to become a movie director rather than an actor.
But in the notoriously clannish Bollywood industry, being Shah Rukh's son can often be a qualification enough to make it.