About six weeks on, the mystery surrounding the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput has slowly turned into a potboiler. After being initially called a suicide, the incident is now looked at as a possible case of murder. Rajput’s death on 14 June brought out Bollywood personalities discussing mental health and depression; the film industry and Indian public denouncing nepotism; actors engaging in mudslinging; two states clashing on the matter of jurisdiction over the probe; politicians such as Subramanian Swamy demanding a CBI investigation and offering 26 reasons why he ‘thinks’ “Rajput was murdered”.
Then came the accusation by the 34-year-old actor’s family against his girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty of cheating and mentally harassing him. The Enforcement Directorate also joined in with a money laundering case to look into “suspicious transactions” amounting to Rs 15 crore.
In the latest development, Rajput’s former girlfriend Ankita Lokhande claimed in a TV interview that the actor couldn’t have taken his own life because he believed suicide to be a “terrible thing”.
For these reasons, the drama surrounding Sushant Singh Rajput’s death investigation is ThePrint’s Newsmaker of the Week.
Rhea Chakraborty’s trial by public
Over the past week, the media, politicians, actors as well as ordinary people have trained their guns at Rhea Chakraborty, said to be Sushant Singh Rajput’s girlfriend at the time of his death, after the Dil Bechara actor’s father filed an FIR against her. Chakraborty faces a public trial even as the case is under investigation by police forces in Bihar and Maharashtra.
Rajput’s father, K.K. Singh, has filed a case under various sections, including abetment to suicide, alleging that Chakraborty and her family members financially cheated and mentally harassed Rajput.
The Enforcement Directorate too has swooped in on the back of Patna Police’s FIR to investigate alleged mishandling of Rajput’s finances and bank accounts and probe if any money was laundered.
Television channels went to town with headlines of the new twist in the case, reading out all accusations against Chakraborty one by one, talking about how Rs 15 crore disappeared from Rajput’s bank account, how she and her family blackmailed the actor in a well laid out conspiracy.
Actor Kangana Ranaut’s social media team called Chakraborty a “gold digger,” while a Janta Dal (United) minister labelled her a “contract killer.”
Chakraborty, meanwhile, is playing her part of a grief-stricken, testy-eyed girlfriend, requesting Union Home Minister Amit Shah for a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). She has slammed the allegations by Rajput’s family as “entirely false and concocted with ulterior motive” and has petitioned the Supreme Court to transfer the investigation being carried out by the police in Patna to Mumbai. She has also complained of receiving murder and rape threats online.
Police versus police
Among investigating agencies too, the recent developments suggest that everyone wants a share of the limelight.
Even as demands for a CBI probe are getting louder, the police forces in Patna and Mumbai are busy clashing with each other.
A Patna Police team was recently in Mumbai for its own investigation into the case after Rajput’s family filed the FIR. This is even as the Mumbai Police has already questioned more than 40 people from the film industry regarding Rajput’s death. These include Mahesh Bhatt, Rajeev Madame, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and Aditya Chopra among others.
Maharashtra’s minister of state for home Shambhuraj Desai took offence to the Patna Police team visiting Mumbai for its probe, saying it did not follow protocols. Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh has ruled out handing over the case to the CBI, saying there is “no question” about it.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Subramanian Swamy, who is among those pushing for a CBI probe, took to Twitter soon after Deshmukh rejected calls for a CBI probe. Swamy contends that Rajput’s death wasn’t a suicide but a possible murder, while sharing an evidence list on Twitter.
Film industry playing its part in the potboiler
Immediately after Rajput’s death, the entire film industry poured in condolences and tributes to the actor, known for his work in films such as Chhichhore, Kai Po Che, and Ms Dhoni – The Untold Story.
However, within days, the incident triggered a ferocious debate on nepotism within the Hindi film industry and the struggles of an ‘outsider’ trying to make it big in Bollywood. Actor Kangana Ranaut gave multiple video interviews to allege that a “movie mafia” was responsible for harming Rajput’s career. However, she soon started attacking other actors such as Taapsee Pannu and Swara Bhasker, calling them “B grade”.
With every day, there’s a new agency, a new politician and a new actor jumping into the drama surrounding the investigation into Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, while the news and entertainment media as well as people on social media conduct their own trial.
In the melee, what seems to be lost is the much-needed conversation on clinical depression and mental health issues.
Views are personal.