In his novel Suicide, the French writer Édouard Levé mused those who died old were made of the past and unlike thinking of them in terms of what they had done, thinking of those who die young is made of possibilities. Levé’s prose captures the pain that many felt in the wake of actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s untimely death at 34. It’s not what Rajput was poised to achieve that continues to haunt us. What also troubles is how nothing appears to change with the way things operate within the film business.
It’s no secret how a large part of the popular Hindi or Bombay film industry considers itself to be an exclusive club. There have been far too many instances that have revealed how the glitzy world of Bollywood is a place where familiarity indeed breeds contempt but mostly for the ones that are beyond the so-called inner circle. Unless, outsiders such as Rajput, or Kangana Ranaut and many more don’t fall in line, everything that they do, suggest or stand for would be waved off.
The powers that be within the industry initially brushed away any insinuations of a coterie or camp that ill-treated ‘outsiders.’ Nepotism in the film industry has become as stale as yesterday’s news and even the younger generations of ‘insiders’ (read star kids) have come to accept it as a badge of honour. At a newcomers’ round-table chat a few years ago that was moderated by a well-known film critic, an actor’s offspring nonchalantly said her struggle was as real as the next person’s because her father was never invited to Karan Johar’s Koffee With Karan.
It’s unlikely that Sushant Singh Rajput’s death would hasten the process of the industry acknowledging its unfair ways. A few years ago, Jiah Khan, another young actor with much promise who stood her own in front of Amitabh Bachchan in her debut Nishabd, called it quits after she lost the will to carry on following a relationship with Sooraj Pancholi. The son of yesteryears’ star Zarina Wahab and Aditya Pancholi, Sooraj made his debut in a Salman Khan production, Hero, and also beat Vicky Kaushal in Masaan to win Filmfare’s Best Male Debut in 2016. Jiah’s suicide and Deepika Padukone’s opening up about her fight with depression hardly made any difference.
The reason things don’t change in the world that exists behind the camera also has to do with the way the business is marketed and talked about by media. A few hours after Rajput’s death, Saif Ali Khan gave an interview saying that silence rather than an outpouring of love for the deceased would be more befitting. He termed the reaction hypocritical, lashed out at the cutthroat business but found drawing of camps “pathetic” and thought it to be “a function of lockdown plus social media.”
After a few days, Rajput was labelled schizophrenic. The likes of the critic, who conducted the previously mentioned actors’ round-table, also unknowingly or otherwise, contribute in maintaining the ‘status quo’. This one also pens a weekly story highlighting the pettiness and dark side of the industry insiders but in codes, lest some other version of the truth comes out. email@example.com
Film historian and bestselling author