Grief has yielded place to vicarious curiosity. Just when everyone thought the customary round of mourning, breast-beating and obituaries had been done with comes the startling revelation that Sridevi, the Bollywood heartthrob of the 1980s and 90s, died of ‘accidental drowning’ and not cardiac arrest as initially believed. For good measure, the forensic report added that traces of alcohol were found in her system, adding an altogether new dimension to the case. Just when everyone thought the story of her death had run its course in the media and it was time to move on to other stories, the fresh revelation about the ‘drowning’ bit has ensured that it is not going to fade away anytime soon.
As was only to be expected, the conspiracy theorists are out with a vengeance weaving their weird spin on the actress’ death. In fact, some have already started drawing parallels with the mysterious death of Sunanda Pushkar, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor’s wife, in a Delhi hotel room in January, 2014. “When was the last time anyone heard about someone dying of ‘drowning’ in a bath tub?” ask some while others have raised their eyebrows over the ‘cardiac arrest’ theory floated in the immediate aftermath of Sridevi’s death in her hotel room at the Jumeira Emirates Towers in Dubai on Saturday. Amar Singh, the resident know-wall about everything that has to do with Bollywood, chipped in with the revelation that Sridevi never drank hard liquor though she did consume wine on special occasions, like most people do.
The yet to be verified story of Sridevi’s husband Boney Kapoor flying to Dubai hours before her death to give his wife a ‘surprise’ has left the field open for the conspiracy theorists to connect the dots and come up with their own conclusions. According to a report published in Khaleej Times, the leading English daily in UAE, Boney, who had gone back to Mumbai, returned on Saturday evening. Sridevi went into the washroom as Boney waited outside to take her to dinner. But when she did not come out after a long time, he first called her and then broke open the washroom door only to find her ‘lying motionless in a bathtub full of water’, the daily said in its report quoting ‘family sources’. The fact that Dubai police have asked Boney to ‘join’ the investigation has lent fodder to those who specialize in weaving tales to speculate on his possible role in the death.
For all one knows though, the death of Sridevi could go the way several mysterious deaths of Bollywood stars have in the past. Nearly a quarter century after her death, we still don’t know how actress Divya Bharti fell to her death from her apartment in Mumbai. Nor are we any wiser about whether actress Zia Khan committed suicide, as Maharashtra police and CBI have concluded, or was murdered, as her mother Rabia Khan believes, five years after she was found hanging in her Juhu apartment. But the one thing that one can be sure of is that our desi Sherlock Holmes would never run out of possible theories to explain the death/murder.
There are two reasons for our abiding interest in conspiracy theories in all such cases. The first of these is of course our obsession with celebrities, especially if they happen to be of the Bollywood variety. The second is our near complete lack of faith in our investigating agencies. The role of these agencies in high profile cases like the Arushi murder case has only strengthened our scepticism about the investigative process. Most people believe the rich and the powerful wield enough clout to influence the course of investigation to suit their interests. Aware of the unusual public interest in matters involving celebrities, the media is only too happy playing into such cynicism by coming up with the weirdest possible speculation.
But spare a thought for the family that has lost a dear one. They can’t even mourn their dead properly as the media intrudes into their privacy. Just imagine Boney Kapoor, instead of arranging for his wife’s cremation, having to answer ridiculous questions like where he was and what he was doing at the time of Sridevi from the media, as if he is already an accused. If he indeed is one, the investigation would certainly reveal it in due course since it is being conducted by Dubai police and not our own police, which have such low credibility.
For the time being, let us leave the family of Sridevi to mourn her death and the investigation agency to get on with their job.