Sushant Singh Rajput
Sushant Singh Rajput Image Credit:

Those whom the gods love die young.

How else can one describe that gut wrenching tragedy that was the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput?

He died when he was only 34 and all of India grieved.

And, yet in what has become the norm, the tragedy was used by various people to score points, the insider outsider debate was reignited, demands for a CBI inquiry were made and this has to be said: Rajput’s death triggered a huge round of cyber bullying, complete with rape and death threats.

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Rajput’s death revealed the huge chasm in the Hindi film industry, a mirror to the massive divide in India today when inevitably every single tragedy acquires a political colour.

Even as India grapples with COVID-19, superstar Amitabh Bachchan, his son actor Abhishek Bachchan, daughter-in-law and actor Aishwarya Bachchan and granddaughter Aaradhya Bachchan were diagnosed with coronavirus. The entire family is now admitted to a Mumbai hospital. Amitabh Bachchan is 77 and has battled many illnesses.

Incredibly, even the family’s battle with Covid-19 was met with mean and spiteful rejoicing - the fact that he was in hospital was said to be a result of his VVIP privilege.

What sort of culture uses an illness to score political points?

Yes Bachchan had earlier been vocal about non-traditional methods to treat the disease, but to use that to gloat over his illness - you would have to sick in the head to do it.

Culture of bullying

Once upon a time Bollywood was all about success and at least pretended to be blind to religious and the other issues that divide India. Now we have seen directors like Karan Johar bullied into silence post Rajput’s death over his alleged nepotism. Actors that Rajput had relationships with have always faced unimaginable bullying. Alia Bhatt and her father Mahesh Bhatt have contended with thousands of threats.

Is this really how we express grief these days?

By bullying and attacking people whose ideas or friends we don’t like.

Karan Johar can be accused of many things such as setting the ubiquitous ostentatious wedding template in India, but to make threats to him and his young twins ostensibly to protest against a death is carrying it too far.

The reality is that the only thing that matters in the Hindi film industry is whether you are successful or not. Recently we have seen Bollywood’s soft power being harnessed for political causes. Witness superstar Aamir Khan attacked and systematically trolled for talking about “intolerant India”. All the trolls did was to prove his point and ensure that he had his superstar contemporaries Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan became completely anodyne.

Yes, nepotism is an issue in any field. But those who are the flag bearers of the fight against Bollywood star nepotism employ their own family members as managers even as they rage against the practice. Irony, as is with most cases in Bollywood, is lost.

As COVID-19 ensures that theatrical releases are absolutely frozen and the financial model of the film industry is being rejigged, the reality is that the Hindi film industry faces unprecedented financial upheaval.

Would be a good time to focus on the essentials and practise tolerance and kindness.

Swati Chaturvedi, Special to Gulf News-1592296808900