Was it nepotism or depression that ended Sushant Singh Rajput’s life?

From Guru Dutt, to Silk Simtha, to Jiah Khan, and more recently Preksha Mehta, Kushal Punjabi, Pratyusha Banerjee and Sushant Singh Rajput, suicide owing to depression had claimed a lot of talented lives form the entertainment industry over decades.

The news of the M.S. Dhoni actor being found hanging in his Mumbai residence on June 14 shocked India. While most could not believe the news some personalities like filmmaker Shekhar Kapur and hairstylist Sapna Bhavnani tweeted about how upset the actor had been lately, which led to the conversation of depression being the reason behind his untimely death.

Tweets flooded the Internet within minutes of the news breaking, and everyone from celebrities, to political leaders to fans expressed grief over Rajput’s death. Sushant was remembered for his great acting skills, his interest in astrophysics, his generous donation during Kerala floods in 2018, and his overall infectious smile that won millions of hearts.

While almost every big name in the industry went on to share condolence messages after the actor’s demise on social media, very few actually attended the funeral on Monday, and none of the so-called “A-listers” was among those present.

Actor Jatin Sarna recalls how he admired the later actor on the sets of Sonchiriya. “I remember Sushant as a very disciplined and passionate guy. The role he was portraying in Sonchiriya required a lot of energy and focus, and he did. Although we did not chat much, I noticed his focus in work. He mostly kept to himself, reading, listening to music… He smiled a lot and talked about galaxies, stars, and the universe… I think his whole world revolved around good books and stars. He was a nice guy, he’s always smiling…”

“In the brief conversation we had, he came up to me and appreciated my work on the very last climax during the shoot, I did the same for him. As an actor I observered him throughout, how he was dealing with his character, how painful his job was with the kind of costume he had… it was very tough, but he was always on his toes..” recalls Jatin.

Bollywood’s nepotism called out

The following day, when actor Kangana Ranaut called out the prevailing nepotism in the industry and mentioned how Bollywood never really acknowldged Sushant Singh Rajput’s hard work and good acting, all hell broke loose. The actor known for not shying away from speaking her mind slammed many for their ‘empty’ condolences in an Instagram post, and said that Sushant’s only fault was that he believed those who told him that he was ‘worthless’.

Meanwhile, Dabangg director Abhinav Kashyap called out Salman Khan and his family for sabotaging his career, and appealed to the government to launch a detailed investigation into Sushant’s death fueled the fire set by Kangana. 

In a Hindi tweet, politician Sanjay Nirupam wrote that the cruelty of the film industry operates on another level and that it killed a talented artiste, meaning Mr Rajput.

Actor Nikhil Dwivedi called out the industry’s hypocrisy in a tweet:

In an Instagram live with actor Manoj Bajpayee filmmaker Shekhar Kapur who was working with SSR for Paani, said that Sushant was dedicated to his character Gora and that it became an ‘addiction’ for him. But when the film was shelved and Sushant realised he wasn’t doing the film, he cried a lot.

Kapur added how the producers of the film backed out saying they would not fund the film because of Sushant, “The producers said, ‘We will not make Paani with Sushant. Paani will not be made.’ I should have tried to make another film with him, which I didn’t. I left India as I was angry and upset.” He further regretted that he did not call or visit Sushant in the last six months.  

Watch the full discussion here:

Who’s to blame?

“Naming few people has no value. They themselves are products and victims of a ‘system’ everyone is protesting against. If you really care, if you’re really angry, then bring down the system. Not the individual. That’s guerilla warfare. Not a spurt of anger,” Shekhar Kapur said in a tweet later. 

In an interview with Times of India regarding Sushant’s death, Saif Ali Khan criticised the industry’s intense competition and the pretence to care, and said, “I mean, we don’t care about anybody. You know, it’s a very cutthroat line of work. But to pretend that you do care is like the ultimate hypocrisy and I think that’s an insult to the dead, you know, it’s an insult to the soul that’s gone,” he said.

However, when it came to sharing his view on how people were blaming certain persons for the Kedarnath actor’s suicide, Saif who worked with SSR in yet-to-release-film Dil Bechara said, “These are the wrong comments to make now. I mean, you can say, listen, it’s just really bad, what happened. It’s really sad that this is the only way he could see out. But to blame anybody or to you know, draw these camps out, this is pathetic. I think it’s a function of lockdown plus social media. And it’s sad that film people can’t think beyond films. We will all assume that this terrible thing happened to him because of his films. There is more to life. Maybe he was upset about other things in his life. Maybe it was a personal reason. Maybe it’s nothing to do with films. If you can’t see beyond that, you will put everything on that – the movies you do.”

SSR’s co-actor in Sonchiriya, Jatin Sarna expresses, “I don’t exactly know what led him to do what he did… It’s all assumptions of people… He was a star, he had everything. Why should one attempt to do this if he’s already at his peak?”

“Now everyone is lashing out at star kids… whoever is getting a chance to let them down is doing so. We should not be do this, they are also human beings… by saying foul things you are doing the same thing to them. They can get hurt as well. We should understand how the industry works… Over this last year, we have seen a lot of cases… Already there’s no work, many actors have not had work for a long time. I finished shooting my last film 83, in October, and since then I have had no work either,” said the actor awaiting the release of his upcoming film 83.

It is said that the actor cut communication with most of his known people over the past few months. He often talked about the void in his life due to the absence of his mother, and astronomy, in his Instagram posts. His last theatrical release Chhichhore was a box-office success, and his film Dil Bechara based on a 2012 novel The Fault in Our Stars, directed by Mukesh Chhabra is yet to release.

While investigations are on, there is no clarity on why the Chhichhore star chose to end his life. Mumbai Police officials had previously confirmed they found no note at the scene. A report on indianexpress.com revealed that Sushant’s father, KK Singh told the police that the actor often felt “low” but he wasn’t aware Sushant was depressed.

Some worldwide known personalities who have fought with depression would be Buzz Aldrin, J.K. Rowling, Jim Carrey, Michael Phelps, Sheryl Crow, Deepika Padukone, Ileana D’Cruz, Parveen Babi, among many others. Sadly, some who could not keep up with life anymore and decided to end it were some like musicians Kurt Cobain, and Chester Bennington, KPOP artist Goo Ha-ra, Korean actor Jeon Mi-Seon, American actor Robin Williams, British actor Lucy Gordon, fashion designer Kate Spade, and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain among many others.

In the end, whether Sushant succumbed to depression or not, individuals who have not experienced the darkness must not venture out and preach others to speak up and share unverified helpline numbers that claim to be suicide prevention. Only those who have been clinically depressed can understand how difficult it is to even talk about how they feel. Most times, it takes one too much time to even understand that they are depressed. As author J.K. Rowling told Oprah Winfrey in 2010, “It’s so difficult to describe [depression] to someone who’s never been there, because it’s not sadness. But it’s that cold absence of feeling — that really hollowed-out feeling.” 

Ending with a nice and wise session the late actor had with students at IIT Bombay in 2016. 

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