Bollywood may seem like one big happy family, but Sushant Singh Rajput’s death has shown there are deep cracks within the film fraternity and that ultimately, it’s each to their own.
The deluge of social media posts that followed after the news of Rajput’s death included messages from colleagues, acquaintances and well-wishers recounting anecdotes and remembering him for his talent, smile and ‘bear hugs’.
But messages from directors Karan Johar and Shekhar Kapur stood out. Not so much for their touching show of grief, but for their acknowledgement that something was not right with Rajput for a while and yet they did not reach out to him.
Rajput’s tragic death has unleashed a whirlwind of emotions for the film industry, fans, people who personally knew him, and even those who didn’t.
At just 34, he was a young, rising star with immense potential and already had several notable films to his credit, including the biopic on M.S. Dhoni and Kai Po Che.
Vani Kapoor spoke about her “first co actor”, Priyanka Chopra remembered their conversations about “astrophysics at sunrise”, while Harshavardhan Kapoor recalled their conversations about “life and science”. Shah Rukh Khan, on the other hand, began his tribute with a touch of narcissism — “He loved me so much…I will miss him so much.”
Almost everyone expressed shock and helplessness about the pain Rajput seemed to have suffered for years. But could Sushant Singh Rajput not have been helped by the large-hearted ‘family’ that is Bollywood?
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Lack of support
Karan Johar said he blamed himself “for not being in touch” with the actor and would “never make that mistake again”.
“I have felt at times like you may have needed people to share your life with…but somehow I never followed up on that feeling …we live in very energetic and noisy but still very isolated times …some of us succumb to these silences and go within,” Johar posted on Instagram, adding that Rajput’s death was a “wake up call” for him.
Shekhar Kapur said he wished Sushant had “reached out to him”.
“I knew the pain you were going through. I knew the story of the people that let you down so bad that you would weep on my shoulder,” he wrote on Twitter.
“What happened was their karma, not yours,” he added.
I knew the pain you were going through. I knew the story of the people that let you down so bad that you would weep on my shoulder. I wish Iwas around the last 6 months. I wish you had reached out to me. What happened to you was their Karma. Not yours. #SushantSinghRajput
— Shekhar Kapur (@shekharkapur) June 15, 2020
But celebrity hairstylist Sapna Bhavnani wasn’t buying any of it, and straight-up called out the film industry for not doing enough to help Rajput.
“It’s no secret Sushant was going through very tough times for the last few years. No one in the industry stood up for him nor did they lend a helping hand. To post about him today is the biggest display of how shallow the industry really is. No one here is your friend,” she said on Instagram.
Then Monday afternoon, Kangana Ranaut, in a video posted on Twitter, also blamed the industry, insinuating that it was a factor in Sushant’s death. Alleging that ‘outsiders’ like him and her, as opposed to star kids, have it tougher, a visibly agitated Ranaut claimed Rajput’s recent social media posts were a cry for help. Actress Meera Chopra was also critical of the industry’s role in not supporting Rajput, referring to Bollywood as a “cruel, cold and ruthless” industry, where one flop movie could lead to people treating you like an “untouchable”. Chopra wrote that after Rajput’s death, she wouldn’t be able to see the industry in the same light ever again.
— meera chopra (@MeerraChopra) June 15, 2020
Token show of solidarity
Bollywood celebrities turned up for Rajput’s funeral Monday afternoon, and almost everyone put up a message for him on social media — including those who have never worked with him. But scrolling through these tributes, one felt like these were statutory messages that had been shared just because these people were part of the same so-called ‘fraternity’.
Just like that, publicly discussing Sushant Singh Rajput’s troubles have become a show of token solidarity. Soon, Bollywood will forget its promises to stand by each other, and silence will envelop more who are not in the ‘Big League’ of stars.
Suicide is a deeply disturbing issue, which still carries immense stigma and doesn’t receive the amount of attention it deserves.
While actor Deepika Padukone has shaken things up a bit by talking about her own struggles with depression, it’s still a widely unacknowledged issue, spoken about in hushed tones.
But one thing Bollywood’s social media messages have shown us is that more actors are beginning to be more open about the fact that surviving the industry is a very tough task.
A superstar like Shah Rukh might like to dwell on how he was “loved” by Rajput, but the young star’s death is a jarring reality check for others feeling overwhelmed in their lives, or for people sensing turmoil in someone else’s.
It’s time to speak up, sooner.
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