We don’t know whether or not Sushant Singh Rajput died by suicide; we don’t know if the actor was depressed or not, but one thing we do know for certain: India’s news channels suffer from an acute case of a new viral strain called Sushantitis.
Even as we watched the live coverage of the Ram Mandir bhoomi pujan at Ayodhya — which included anchor Navika Kumar singing a bhajan duet with the BJP’s Sambit Patra (Times Now) — and Prime Minister Narendra Modi planting a parijaat sapling at the site, ‘Breaking News’ flashed across the screen: ‘CBI probe for Sushant’ (India Today) ‘Centre Accepts Bihar CM’s recommendation’ (Mirror Now), and ‘SC: Sushant died in unusual circumstances’ (Republic TV, Times Now). News channels could barely contain their excitement. The moment the ceremony was over and PM Modi had concluded his speech, some such as Republic TV and Mirror Now scuttled back as fast as they could to their magnificent obsession: the death of Sushant Singh Rajput.
News channels are sick – suffering from an obsessive compulsive disorder.
That alone can explain why after more than 50 days’ coverage — non-stop for the last fortnight — of ‘SSR’, as many have dubbed the star of Dil Bechara, the news channels are still unable to focus on any other news.
And news there has been aplenty: apart from the “historic” bhoomi pujan, Jammu and Kashmir completed one year since the revocation of Article 370; the coronavirus has now infected over 1,900,000 people, and left approximately 40,000 dead; more than a 100 people have died of illicit liquor consumption in Punjab, destructive floods have swamped parts of Assam and Bihar; Mumbai experienced the heaviest rains since 2005, to say nothing of the economy or China in Ladakh.
But the ‘Explosive Exclusive’ on Times Now Tuesday was ‘Jaadu Tona Pujas’ and the black magic practised by Rhea Chakraborty — according to Rajput’s former personal assistant. He also regaled us with her love for expensive food, liquor, etc.
On Republic TV, there was an ‘explosive’ ‘truth tape’ interview with an unnamed and unseen friend of Sushant who claimed the actor told him he had “no space”, that he knew Disha Salian, his manager, was murdered. Republic boasted that its ‘SIT’ yanked open the case.
And that illustrates the problem: news channels are delusional – they’re suffering from a case of mistaken identity as they labour under the misconception that they are the investigating agency. Move over Mumbai and Bihar Police, ED, CBI – TV’s super sleuths are here.
Between them, they tracked down friends of Rajput such as Ganesh or Siddharth Pithani (Zee News) who described discovering Rajput on that fateful day, a former assistant (Times Now) who claimed Rhea ran the show as well as Sushant, a former girlfriend (Ankita Lokhande) who told every single news channel that Rajput wasn’t depressed, his Bollywood co-stars and stars who never met him (such as Kangana Ranaut, Republic TV), a former cook (CNN News18, ABP News), a former bodyguard (Republic TV), a guard at Rhea’s house (Times Now), his cousins, his father — and believe it or not, Aaj Tak even managed to consult him, through paranormal agencies—“What does Sushant’s aatma say?”
In each instance, reporters and anchors badgered the people with the same questions — do you think he suicided? Was he depressed? What role did Rhea play in his life?
They also went after hard evidence: ABP News conducted a mock post-mortem with ‘doctors’ without masks and reenacted his life before he joined films; CNN News18 vetted his bank accounts and investments, others tapped into WhatsApp messages, Republic TV produced an alleged video of the police talking when they discovered his body, News24 described his daily routine – read books, play the guitar, watch movies on a home theatre, work out in the gym…just like any ordinary guy.
You see where their investigations are heading? To face-reading, of course. Anchor Navika Kumar (Times Now) played two video clips from January 2020 in which Rajput is seen and heard fooling around with a huge grin on his face — “4-5 45!” he shouts out with a giggle. Kumar then asked colleague Rahul Shivshankar: “Does this look like a guy who is suffering from depression?”
Shivshankar: “No, in fact, on the face of it, this is an individual who has all his faculties about him….” So, now you know how to diagnose mental distress.
Oh, the news channels have been having so much fun — at Rajput and Chakraborty’s expense. And they have many happy hunting days ahead of them still. Consider: they can analyse his expressions in each and every photograph/video and his TV interviews for evidence of ‘normality’. Then there are production teams on his films to be interviewed, say the make-up artists who know a thing or two about faces….
Then they could try talking to the inanimate objects in his home: his dumbbells, his bed. News24 told us he made his bed each morning. Is that normal behaviour for a film star? Best of all, they could turn to the mirror in the bathroom: “Mirror mirror on the wall/Tell all, tell all.”
Most news channels have concluded Rajput was murdered: ‘Who Killed Sushant?’ asked CNN News18. They also suggest there is a conspiracy and a cover-up by the Mumbai Police on behalf of….. well, they’re not telling, not yet at least. (Times Now, Republic TV).
Meanwhile, #JusticeforSushant is an excuse to spend entire days on anything that will give a juicy headline. Mirror Now called the death of Rajput and that of his manger Disha, a ‘Double Murder Mystery’—and that’s what it is for these TV detectives.
All they need to do now is follow the example of Zee News, which gave up all pretence of being a news channel, this week — its studio became a temple setting where bhajans and kirtans rang out all day. News anchors may like to climb into khaki clothes and convert their sets into mock police stations too?
Views are personal.