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Top Bollywood actors receive summons in Indian drug probe

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Some of Bollywood’s biggest actors are being questioned in a widening drug probe by federal agencies that has sent shockwaves through India’s beleaguered film industry and dominated prime time news headlines.

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Officials from the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) have been investigating alleged drug use in Bollywood for the last month in connection with the death of Sushant Singh Rajput, a popular actor who was found dead at his residence in June.

The NCB is scheduled to question actress Deepika Padukone, one of the industry’s most well-known names, on Saturday, Indian media reported. Officials at NCB’s Mumbai office did not respond to calls from Reuters.

Padukone, 34, among the industry’s highest paid stars, was seen landing in Mumbai late on Thursday, ahead of her questioning on Saturday, according to local TV news. Padukone or her representatives were not immediately available to comment.

The NCB has already questioned several well-known persons connected to the industry this week in Mumbai, including producers, talent managers and a fashion designer.

The investigation is aimed at unearthing a possible nexus between the film industry and the drug trade, an Indian law enforcement official told Reuters.

“We don’t know who is next. It’s scary,” said a Bollywood producer, who did not want to be named, adding that there were fears that more big names could feature in the probe.

The 191 billion rupee ($2.59 billion) Indian film industry, of which Mumbai-based Bollywood forms a major part, has been struggling with a lean year, as theatres continue to remain shut due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mumbai police initially reported Rajput’s death as accidental and local media called it a suicide, but the federal police agency is now investigating if there was any foul play.

Earlier this month, the NCB arrested actress Rhea Chakraborty, who had been dating Rajput at the time of his death, for being “active in a drug syndicate connected with drug supplies”, according to a copy of her bail order.

Chakraborty and her brother Showik are currently in jail in Mumbai.

Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar in Mumbai and Aditya Kalra in New Delhi; Editing by Gareth Jones

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