Sushant Singh Rajput and Rhea Chakraborty
Sushant Singh Rajput and Rhea Chakraborty Image Credit: Instagram/rhea_chakraborty

The traditional Patna-based family of seven included Krishna Kishor Singh Rajput, his wife Usha, their four daughters and their youngest, Sushant.

The Rajput family’s destiny took a dramatic turn in 2002 when Usha died relatively young — due to hypertension and “panic attacks”. It affected mommy’s boy Sushant, who was studying in class 11 at that time.

As Sushant grew up, he started developing anxieties and pressures, as he felt a permanent vacuum grow in his life.

By pressing for CBI to investigate the murder angle, the BJP has successfully resonated with Rajput community in Bihar who are just 5% but influential enough to swing many seats in the coming elections

- Sheela Bhat

Even when he got success as an actor in Bollywood, his inner struggle continued, which reached a climax when he died an unnatural death on June 14, creating a storm in the Indian civil society.

Sushant could never take a lead or get full control of his own life. For outsiders, he had everything going for him — extremely good looking, fame, an acting career, money, you name it.

Sushant Singh Rajput
Sushant Singh Rajput Image Credit:

He had the love of his sisters, had many girlfriends, luxury cars, a chiselled body, and hard-earned success. Sushant dabbled in science, space, astronomy and spiritualty.

Since his suicide death has all the elements of a classic suspense drama, it encouraged escapism in home-stuck TV viewers in India and offered distraction to the ruling establishment which is grappling with a sinking economy during the pandemic.

Mumbai Police, which led the investigations into Sushant’s death — an event that continues to animate popular imagination in India — show that it is a case of suicide, where the actor was struggling with issues of drugs and serious mental disorders. The case has now been handed over to the CBI, India’s premier investigating agency.

The Rhea angle

For the last 18 months Rhea Chakraborty, 28, a beautiful and intelligent woman and a promising actress was a presence in Sushant’s life. She has been a successful Video Jockey on V TV.

Her Bengali father is now a retired doctor in the Indian Army while her mother Sandhya Chakraborty is a Konkani-Marathi speaking Gaud Sarasvat Brahmin.

Rhea’s family’s strong Bengali-Maharashtrian culture had a deep impact on Rhea and made her quite a confident urban girl who has never hesitated to take control of her life.

Rise of a star

He was intelligent and quite likeable, but he had violent mood swings. Sushant joined college in Delhi to study engineering but dropped out to try his luck in the Mumbai film industry. He got a big break in the TV serial Pavitra Rishta in 2009.

This show helped Sushant stabilise by 2011. He had a grim smile and well-built body that made him look both handsome and vulnerable on screen.

His TV serial’s producer Ekta Kapoor’s cousin Abhishek Kapoor gave Sushant his first Bollywood break in Kai Po Che, an offbeat film. But, with his foray into a highly competitive film world began his journey into the unknowns.

The film industry has largely been a closed shop. Most outsiders are put through tormenting tests at every faculty of film-making.

In 2012 during the shooting of the movie Kedarnath, Sushant came very close to newcomer Sara Ali Khan while shooting in the Himalayas.

Sushant and few colleagues allegedly tasted local intoxicants during their stay in Uttarakhand which formed into a deadly habit. It’s not surprising as some sects inhabiting the mountains regularly take intoxicants. On his return to Mumbai, Sushant started getting insomnia.

In 2014, the actor took counselling from Dr. Harish Shetty, a leading psychiatrist in Mumbai. He gave him medication to treat his sleeplessness.

Rhea arrested
India's Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) on Tuesday arrested actress Rhea Chakraborty in a drugs case related to the death of Sushant Singh Rajput. Later in the day, her bail plea was rejected by a magistrate court and she was sent to judicial custody till September 22

Mental health issues

According to the Mumbai Police investigation, a host of psychiatrists were consulted by Sushant and all of them said that he was struggling with mental health issues. Sushant took heavy psychosomatic medicines. Two doctors told Mumbai Police that he took banned drugs too; use of which is rampant in the Mumbai film industry.

In one of the sessions with Suzzane Walker, a psychiatrist, Sushant showed extreme restlessness. His doctor diagnosed him with bipolar disorder.

The psychiatrist told the cops that Sushant knew he was having mental issues, but he wasn’t ready to accept it. He wanted to get the fastest cure, but never took medicines regularly.

On 15 November while talking to Dr Walker, his girlfriend Rhea said that Sushant was very frightened and didn’t want to live any longer.

Most doctors revealed that Rhea was genuinely concerned about Sushant’s health. Walker further told the police that on a scale of 1 to 10, his mental condition had reached to a scale of 9 to 10 by end of November 2019.

One of the doctors told the cops that Sushant might have taken the decision to commit suicide as a final resort as he may not have wanted his family to suffer because of his health issues.

On November 28, 2019 he met Dr. Kersi Bomi Chavda along with Rhea in Hinduja Hospital where he had gotten admitted. Sushant told the doctor he is scared all the time. Dr. Chavda wrote on Sushant’s medical papers, “Evidence of Severe Anxiety plus Depression and Existential Crisis.”

Depression and restlessless

He was shortly prescribed heavy medicines to reduce his depression and restlessness. Sushant did not have many films since late 2018. He used to complain that nothing is working as per his expectations. This added to his insecurity.

Quintessentially, a thoughtful boy, Sushant told everyone — his doctors, Rhea and his sisters that he wanted to go to South India to some quiet place. He found Mumbai too crowded.

On June 8 this year, Sushant had a video call with Dr. Chavda who advised him to take his medication regularly. The same day Sushant parted ways with Rhea.

And, within five days he was no more.

It is a real shame that this acutely sad story is messed up by media, investigative agencies and politicians.

If it is proved that Sushant was murdered, then it will be a real surprise because nobody could have possibly benefited from his death. No big amount has been transferred into Rhea or anyone’s account, Mumbai Police has repeatedly claimed.

A case of suicide

The suicide theory is logical because three of Sushant’s sisters told police soon after his death that their brother’s death was suicide. Meetu, one of his sister’s, who reached Sushant’s house and took charge of his dead body called her sister in Delhi and described her brother’s death as a case of suicide. All four sisters have admitted that Sushant was feeling low since November last year.

The tragic story exploded partly because Mumbai Police and Maharashtra’s political leadership didn’t respond in time to investigate the possibility of murder by filing an FIR.

The police commissioner of Mumbai, Param Bir Singh, used to be the deputy to Hemant Karkare in the anti-terrorist squad when terror cases involving accused like Col Shrikant Purohit and Sadhvi Pragnya Thakur were investigated. BJP has a strong grouse against him as he was quite strict in quizzing Sadhvi Thakur.

However, some celebrity Indian TV anchors have declared Rhea guilty and a non-stop, vulgar TV coverage has diminished the sorrow of Sushant’s death, while the drugs nexus in Bollywood and its alleged linkages with Rhea’s family has taken centerstage.

Meanwhile, by pressing for CBI to investigate the murder angle, the BJP has successfully resonated with Rajput community in Bihar who are just 5% but influential enough to swing many seats in the coming elections.

Let us acknowledge that Sushant and Rhea’s joint but failed struggle to cure his mental illness is 21st century India’s real love story.

Sheela Bhatt is a senior Indian journalist. She is based in New Delhi.