If you like gossip and scandal, there's no better place for it than Bollywood: a prolific film industry full of good looking people; where nepotism rules and newcomers have to find any way they can to get a place in the sun; where a handful of actors and producers hold the keys to the entire industry; and where as long as you're popular enough, you can get away with some pretty fucked up shit.
Here's a look at 5 of the most shocking Bollywood scandals:
1. Salman Khan hit-and-run case
Salman Khan is one of the most powerful players in the industry. He is a hugely popular actor, and lately his films have been superhit after superhit, breaking multiple box office records. Starlets will fight each other for a spot as the "heroine" in his films, and newcomers all want his favour, as he is known to be very generous with his friends. But that's not all there is to him, as rumours of a drinking problem, domestic violence and mafia connections abound.
On 28 September 2002, Salman Khan was allegedly driving his SUV while intoxicated when he hit a bakery in Bandra, running over five people that were sleeping on the sidewalk. One person was killed, four injured. Salman and his posse fled the scene, but he was later arrested and charged with causing death by negligence, which carries a max. 2 year sentence. He claims it wasn't him behind the wheel and he wasn't drunk.
The case has been going on since then, and the trial (or rather, trials) have been nothing less than a circus. Witness after witness has turned hostile, even as they complain of being under pressure to change their statements, and say they have received threatening phone calls and been offered bribes. The prime witness even ran away from the case. From December 2013 the case is being retried with the more serious charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder (max. sentence 10 years). Since then, another witness turned hostile and the case diary and witness statements went missing (they were found again later after a media uproar).
The industry remains firmly on Salman's side, and so does the general public: his latest film Kick was the second highest grossing film EVER in Bollywood.
2. Aishwarya Rai vs. Salman Khan
Sanjay Leela Bhansali's 1999 classic film Hum Dil de Chuke Sanam brought together stars Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai, former Miss World and then Bollywood darling.
But whispers of domestic violence tend to follow Salman Khan around (before Aishwarya he had been involved in a physical altercation with ex-girlfriend Somy Ali, a Pakistani actress), so when Aishwarya showed up at an awards ceremony with a black eye, press speculation went wild. At the time, however, she claimed she had fallen down some stairs and bruised her face.
Aishwarya lived with her parents, and in 2000, there were reports from her neighbours that Salman turned up one night, drunk, and banged on her door for hours demanding to be let inside. (She claimed she had "dozed off" and hadn't heard anything). In 2002, Aishwarya's parents filed a complaint with the Mumbai police, claiming that an intoxicated Salman had broken windowpanes and furniture in their home and made threats against their family.
There were also confrontations in film sets, as Salman reportedly pushed Aishwarya to the ground on the set of her film Kuch Naa Kaho, causing her future husband and the film's leading man Abhishek Bachchan to intervene. Salman left, but not before reportedly backing into Aish's car. After they were broken up, Salman stormed the set of Chalte Chalte, caused a huge scene and dragged away Aishwarya with him. This resulted in her being fired from the film (more on that later).
Aishwarya finally issued a statement in September 2002 - the day before the hit-and-run episode. She said, “Salman and I broke up last March, but he isn’t able to come to terms with it. After we broke up, he would call me and talk rubbish. He also suspected me of having affairs with my co-stars. [...] There were times when Salman got physical with me, luckily without leaving any marks. And I would go to work as if nothing had happened.”
In 2003, there were rumours that Aish and Salman were going to be cast together once again in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Bajirao Mastani, so Aishwarya issued another statement: “For the sake of my well-being, my sanity, my dignity and the dignity and self-respect of my family…I will not work with Mr Salman Khan.” She went on to say, “I stood by him enduring alcoholism, misbehavior in worse phases and in turn, I was at the receiving end of his abuse (verbal, physical, emotional), infidelity and indignity. That is why like any other self-respecting woman and God is witness, I said enough and ended it almost two years ago.” [The film ended up being shelved, and is now on the floors with Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone].
For Salman's part, after it was over with Aish, he started dating an actress who looked exactly like her. Salman denied the rumors of domestic abuse in a 2009 interview. His career took no hits from any of this, but Aishwarya's was almost over...
3. Aishwarya Rai vs. The World
Bollywood is an industry controlled by men. Men make all the important decisions in filmmaking and have all the power, so even if you are an A-lister heroine, you will make significantly less money than A-lister heroes, have much less influence and can be easily replaced. Films are often built around the hero, who gets to pick the heroine who will be cast opposite him. Now, the Khans are the heaviest weights among actors, especially Salman and Shah Rukh (the "king of Bollywood"). Salman is the "bad boy", SRK is the romantic hero, and they were good friends back in the day.
So when Aishwarya Rai ended her abusive relationship with Salman Khan and he stormed the set of SRK-Aish starrer Chalte Chalte, caused a scene, destroyed the set and dragged Aish away, Shah Rukh Khan (the lead man and producer) promptly fired Aishwarya. She was replaced with her best friend at the time and SRK's protegée, Rani Mukherji, and had to find out about it from the newspaper, as neither Rani nor Shah Rukh bothered to inform her.
[Chalte Chalte ended up being a flop].
But that's not all! After the commercial and critical success of Devdas, the SRK-Aishwarya jodi (pairing) became really popular, and Aish was attached to SRK's productions to the point where, if they were offered a project together and he turned it down, she'd have to turn it down also. So SRK removed Aishwarya from several planned films with no explanation given.
Now keep in mind that in Bollywood you commit dates for shooting years in advance, so if suddenly all your planned projects fall through, it's almost impossible to find something else to fill that space at the last minute - especially when you're blacklisted by Salman Khan. She had to drop Atal Agnihotri's (Salman's brother in law) Dil Ne Jise Apna Kahan for obvious reasons.
Aishwarya said she would not work again with Salman, and SRK said he would not work again with Aishwarya. She had pissed off the two most powerful actors in the industry, and her career could have ended right then and there. For most actresses, it would have been over.
Fortunately for her, Aishwarya has some international appeal, and the global success of the 2004 UK film Bride and Prejudice did wonders for her career. She kept working and in 2006 she bagged the blockbuster Dhoom 2, where she started dating cutie Abhishek Bachchan, son of the legendary self-made actor Amitabh Bachchan and famous actress Jaya Bachchan.
Years after Chalte Chalte, when Aish had married into this powerful family and SRK's friendship with Salman had soured (reportedly in 2008 at Katrina Kaif's birthday party Salman made a comment about Aishwarya to SRK and they ended up in a fistfight), he ended up apologizing to her. Aishwarya was angry with him for a very long time, and he was not invited to her wedding, but today they seem to be at least civil towards each other, though they have not worked together again.
Aishwarya and Rani stopped being friends and at the time Rani had gone to the press to say she chose her friendship with SRK over everything else. Supposedly, after Aish was on top of the game again, Rani tried to apologise, but Aish wasn't having it. She wasn't invited to the wedding (not surprising since besides this incident, Rani had also been linked with Abhishek some years before).
4. The end of Vivek Oberoi's career
There is one career that did not make it out of the Aish-Salman debacle, and that is Vivek Oberoi's. He was Aish's boyfriend right after she broke up with Salman, and though a newcomer, he was the "next big thing". That is, until he called up a press conference to talk about Salman Khan.
Vivek told the press that Salman had called him the night before, 41 times. He said Salman had been drunk and threatened to kill him, making references to his rumoured underworld connections, saying Vivek "had no idea what he was up against". And then Vivek went on a rant about how Salman was an aging, frustrated and out of work actor and even challenged him to a duel (!).
Well. Not that anyone disbelieved that Salman HAD threatened Vivek, but people in Bollywood weren't happy that he had exposed another actor's wrongdoings in public (they have an unspoken code of silence). Aishwarya was displeased about Vivek using her name and he was widely condemned in the industry, where his work opportunities completely dried up. A few months later, the Aishwarya romance ended.
He then backtracked and tried to apologize to Salman (even in public), but to no avail. In 2011 Salman eventually said he had forgiven Oberoi, but it was too late for him and his career.
5. Rani Mukherji's forbidden romances
Rani Mukherji was linked with married-with-children actor Govinda for quite some time, and though they both denied the rumours, there was crazy gossip around them. Tabloids talked about romantic getaways and a physical fight between Rani and the wife on film sets; reports abounded that the couple had bought a flat together; and then, there was a rumour that Govinda's daughter tried to kill Rani, after which the affair ended.
If that's not dramatic enough, Rani then started being linked with the elusive (but extremely powerful) married producer Aditya Chopra, head of Yash Raj Films. Rani then began to work almost exclusively in Yash Raj productions, which did not help with the rumours.
Aditya and his wife officially divorced in 2009, but the final straw was reportedly when his friend Karan Johar [supposedly] based Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (a film about infidelity) on Aditya's life, cast Rani in it and they all went to NYC to shoot it. I mean, have you seen that film? Yikes. It's said that when Aditya returned he went straight to a hotel instead of going back home.
Rani and Aditya were secretly married this year.
YES I realize that a lot of huge scandals are not listed (like Rekha-Amitabh) but if you guys like this one I can do some more later (so take this opportunity to suggest your favourite scandals tbh).
Hopefully I explained enough so that even non Bollywood fans can enjoy ;)
[with many thanks to KoffeeWithKaranBitches and cosmickhaleesi]