Bollywood actress Richa Chadha, who lost a friend and colleague after Sushant Singh Rajput’s death last month, urges everyone not to make a “mockery out of things”.
Rajput’s suicide has unleashed a torrential flurry of toxic fights among Bollywood stars and directors, re-ignited debates about privilege and entitlement enjoyed by star kids and opened a fresh round of discussions on mental health.
The sheen from the razzle-dazzle of the world of musicals is being chipped away with Rajput’s sudden death being attributed to powerful inside forces sabotaging his career.
Even though his death is being investigated by the Mumbai Police robustly, the speculations surrounding his death and several conspiracy theories by insiders and fans have flourished.
“I really want to assert one thing: What upsets me beyond measure is the fact that sane and intelligent people are not realising that his own family is being quiet and perhaps they want to grieve and move on without struggling with all that noise around them,” said Chadha in an exclusive interview over the phone to Gulf News.
The self-made star, who has written a 3,000 words-plus blog on debates like nepotism and the toxic working culture in Bollywood, believes it is Rajput’s family who can take a call on whether there should be a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry or not.
Rajput was found dead in his Mumbai residence on June 14 sending shock waves across the industry and among his army of adoring fans.
“Can you imagine how painful it must be for them? To see his pictures splashed on social media and toxic accusations flying back and forth. But they are keeping quiet for a reason. We must give them time to grieve and respect their privacy … This is not the time to settle personal scores. There’s nobody in Bollywood who hasn’t suffered or doesn’t have a story to tell,” said Chadha.
The most vocal advocate batting for Rajput’s justice is Indian National Award-winning actress Kangana Ranaut who believes that he was murdered.
Many other directors — such as Shekhar Kapur, who was planning to direct Rajput in the now-aborted project ‘Paani’ — also believe that Rajput did not get his due or credit as an actor.
Actor and politician Shekhar Suman has also called for a CBI inquiry into the death, but took a step back when he realised that his family was silent. But Chadha has three words for all of them.
“Respect the deceased,” she said. “It is just not easy when people are legitimately hurt, confused and sad. But we need to prevent the discussion from becoming feral.”
But while his death has become this unwitting whistle-blowing exercise in Bollywood, Chadha believes that there’s going to be a big shift in the functioning of the Hindi entertainment industry.
“There will be a karmic change and things will take their own course … There will be a change in how films are made and how cliques are formed in Bollywood … But for now, everybody should put their egos aside. I agree with Shekhar Suman when he recently said that he had dropped everything because it is the family’s prerogative and their alone,” she added
Chadha, whose credits include courtroom drama ‘Section 375’ and ‘Masaan’, reminds us that ultimately many have lost a friend and a loved one.
In her blog, she had recalled the time when Rajput used to pick her up on a bike and they used to attend workshops and auditions during their struggling days as actor hopefuls.
“What people don’t understand is that we have lost a friend and most of us get triggered by this discussion. I wrote a 3,900-word blog on it and my stance is very clear,” said Chadha, refusing to name and shame anyone in particular.
She also urged everyone to focus on constructive conversations.
“People need to create a positive work culture where every department in films is respected and given their due. Not just actors, studios or producers alone … People need to give credit where credit is due. Everybody’s payment should be cleared on time and these are the things we should be discussing,” she said.
She reminds everyone to put things in perspective and look at the bigger picture in context of the pandemic that’s claiming lives around the globe.
“An actor has passed away and we are all grieving. But if you are going to tell me that Bollywood is more important than the flood in Assam especially in the time of pandemic, then I will disagree on what constitutes newsworthiness … Things that are discussed should be newsworthy and be relevant to the nation.”
Chadha remains one of Bollywood’s most vocal celebrities and she believes that asking the right questions can never go out of style. The actress, who has a superb command over her craft, has openly spoken about her struggle with bulimia and how she struggled to fit into a certain mould set by Bollywood’s deeply-entrenched sexist and patriarchal work culture.
“Perhaps it is my insecurities that are making me speak out so much. But I care about my fraternity and I care about the people in my industry.”
Did you know?
Richa Chadha has joined hands with director Arati Kadav of ‘Cargo’ fame for a short sci-fi film titled ‘55kms.sec’, shot on the phone during the Indian lockdown. “Arati had such an interesting vision … It required to film 12 minutes on my phone and I haven’t acted in a while, so I was happy to be a part of this film.”
“You have to change in order to adapt and survive. All the stakeholders in cinema are evolving to keep up with the current scenario. They will figure it out eventually,” said Chadha on how the pandemic put a halt to all cinema screenings, film shootings.
Give credit where it’s due
Richa Chadha is an advocate of every artist in every department getting their rightful due and credit. While the West has the practice of giving royalty to their artists and creative minds on a project, Bollywood is yet to come with a viable structure.
“People must move in this direction to give a more balanced structure not just for actors for all creative departments like in any other countries. At no point did I say I didn’t get royalty for ‘Gangs Of Wasseypur’. That is not legally my right. I got the full and final payment.
“I am trying to initiate a discussion about royalty for creative people all around. People need to create a positive work culture where every department is respected and given their due. Not just actors, studios or producers.”
How did Richa Chada spend her time during lockdown?
“Reading, writing and photography.”
“Empathy is the need of the hour. Remember, there are people who have just lost a family member. So restraint is the need of the hour. They deserve to mourn in peace and silence. Can you imagine what his [Sushant Singh Rajput] father is going through?”