Darshan's Arrest Sends A Stern Warning To Sandalwood Stars — They're Not Above The Law

Sharan Setty

Jun 20, 2024, 05:52 PM | Updated 05:52 PM IST

Actor Darshan Thoogudeepa was recently detained by Bengaluru police in connection with a murder case involving a 33-year-old man in the city.
Actor Darshan Thoogudeepa was recently detained by Bengaluru police in connection with a murder case involving a 33-year-old man in the city.
  • If Darshan, the demigod for many, can be brought to justice, then no one is above the law.
  • Over the years, the Kannada Film Industry (KFI) — also called Sandalwood — has witnessed disturbing degradation.

    Producers have encouraged casting couch to promote aspiring actresses and 'heroes' protected their fans by approving caste loyalties, shielding violence, promoting heirs instead of organic talents and glorifying abuse against women.

    The rot is silently acknowledged by all, yet a 'swalpa adjust maadi' attitude prevails, preventing any real efforts to clean up the industry.

    The fact that not a single celebrity has openly criticised the violent fan clubs, actors and their accusations in the past shows the amount of fear that seeped in.

    When asked about the incident, Kannada cine stars smilingly refused to answer the question with folded hands. If stars refuse to speak up (and silently hope and pray that the situation is dealt with), how would the common man muster the courage to speak the truth to an actor?

    But with the advent of social media, people can hide behind anonymity and still express their opinions.

    That is precisely what is happening now.

    Scandalous Side Of Sandalwood

    Darshan Thoogudeepa, popularly called 'D Boss' by his fans, was recently arrested by the Bengaluru police in connection with the murder of a 33-year-old man in the city.

    Renukaswamy, 33, a fan of Darshan's, was brought to Bengaluru and was allegedly tortured with a hot iron rod and given electric shocks before his body was disposed of in a drain by a gang that was under the instructions of Darshan.

    Renukaswamy reportedly sent explicit images of his private parts with lewd messages to Darshan's rumoured girlfriend Pavithra Gowda.

    Nearly 17 people have been arrested (as of 18 June 2024) in connection with the murder of the pharmacist, including Darshan and Pavithra Gowda.

    The murder has brought back many unpleasant memories associated with the Kannada film industry, which was once notorious for sex scandals, casting couch practices and promoting violence through movies that are often based on nauseating patriarchal setups.

    Once heralded by the likes of Dr Rajkumar and Vishnuvardhan, the Kannada film industry arguable entered a decade of decline following the death of veteran actors like the two.

    These 'father figures' were also famous for sorting out any internal issues or complaints raised in the industry, just the way late actor Ambareesh did when Shruti Hariharan came out with her #MeToo confessions.

    With the veterans wielding away the power to their proteges, the misuse of popularity and money power to influence and fund 'fan clubs' and 'youth associations' also amplified.

    In Darshan's case, he was allegedly funding his own fan clubs and paid off anyone who got a tattoo that promoted him. As such, the fanfare kept on increasing.

    Earlier, actors were known for their good deeds and veterans would be loved and respected because they would offer help and assistance to their fans who are in need of resources during a natural calamity or a medical emergency.

    'Mass' (Versus) Media

    This incident has sent shockwaves across the state, with the media in no mood to be soft on Darshan as he has been anything but courteous to them in the past. On a few occasions, he has openly criticised and used abusive language for the media for "overstepping their boundaries".

    Darshan has developed a reputation of being an actor who uses slurs frequently in pressers and leaked phone calls that have gone viral on social media and are used as fodder by memesters.

    This includes an abusive phone call where he threatened his wife Vijayalakshmi of dire consequences involving a public incident. Darshan, in the past, has been accused of domestic abuse and violence against women, including his wife and mother-in-aw.

    His drunken shenanigans are well-known to an extent because of social media and repeated occurrences involving pub brawls in Bengaluru and Mysuru. Producer Umapathy Shrinivas spoke up against the actor two years ago and had predicted that "he will be exposed eventually, maybe a year or two down the line".

    As soon as Darshan's arrest hit the headlines, Umapathy's videos went viral once again on the Internet as he had sustained abuses from the actor's fan for allegedly defaming his good nature and character with his statements against him.

    But the media did not hesitate, fear or back down this time.

    Journalists like Ajith Hanumakkanavar and Ranganath of Suvarna News and Public TV have taken a public stand against the actor's pattern of misbehaviour from the beginning. These videos are nothing short of cinema, and it has also sadly resulted in journalists and reporters reguarly receiving abuses and death threats.

    While Darshan's fans cornered the media and tried to paint them as the perpetrators, the Congress government under Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has promised a free and fair trial and has committed itself to bringing the people involved in the murder to justice.

    Political Affiliations And Silence

    Due to convenient caste equations, a lot of actor-turned-politicians are a common lot in Karnataka. It is a wrong assumption that stardom converts in political power only in Andhra Pradesh or Tamil Nadu. In Karnataka, even if actors have no open political affiliations, they have been deputed by political parties for campaigning.

    After Ambareesh's death, actress Sumalatha's campaign during the by-election in Mandya saw many stars supporting her candidature, including the likes of Yash, Darshan and Doddanna. In the Old Mysore Region, Yash and Darshan particularly enjoy a loyal following from the Vokkaligas who consider them icons in the film industry.

    As a result, what they say and do also has an impact on candidates and parties during the time of elections.

    Caste, Cinema, Action — Not Just Tamil Nadu And Andhra Pradesh, Even Karnataka's Political Arena Has Been 'Star'-Studded

    Many names have emerged from Karnataka — Upendra, Pooja Gandhi, Shilpa Ganesh, Sumalatha Ambareesh, Umashree, Jaggesh, Shashikumar, and Prakash Raj, to name a few.

    But among them, only some have been able to crack the caste code and come through successfully before their people.

    Umashree, a veteran actor, was elected as a Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) in 2013 from Bagalkot's Terdal, a constituency dominated by OBCs, including the Nekara community (weavers) to which she belongs.

    Umashree belongs to the Devanga sub-caste, one among 29 others that form the larger community of more than six million people in Karnataka.

    Another actor, Shashikumar, won the 1999 Lok Sabha elections by contesting from Chitradurga — a seat dominated by the Scheduled Tribe community, particularly the Nayakas, to which Sudeep also belongs.

    The Nayakas are concentrated in districts like Raichur, Chitradurga, and Bellary. They also delivered a massive blow to the BJP this time.


    KFI's eerie silence has exposed the double-standards and the morals that they preach on screen and follow in reality. Many, understandably, are scared — but that should not stop them from standing for justice without calling out the accused just yet.

    Senior actors and industry veterans are seen folding their hands and walking away from reporters or worse, deflecting, when asked about Darshan's arrest and their comments on the whole incident.

    Darshan's accusations of murdering an innocent man have shed light (once again) on the rampant abuse, casteist fan following and shady political connections in the industry once again after it was briefly appreciated for producing new talents in directors and actors.

    Instead of addressing the underbelly of corruption, nepotism and sex abuse, the Kannada film industry has been accused of multiple things over the years: murder, rape and sex abuse accusations, combined with corruption at the very top to producers promoting nepotism.

    A lot of people were aware about these issues earlier, but all of them are now glad to see Darshan facing potential prison time.

    If Darshan, the demigod for many, can be brought to justice, then no one is above the law.

    This comes a bit late, but better late than never.

    Sharan Setty (Sharan K A) is an Associate Editor at Swarajya. He tweets at @sharansetty2.

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