Trigger warning: The article contains references to depression and suicide.
What I’m about to say is something most people disagree with me on. Like everyone else, I can’t stop thinking about Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, and when the song ‘Char Kadam’ pops up on my list of recommended videos on YouTube, I feel like crying and wishing someone could have been there for him so he hadn’t taken the step that he did.
However, I don’t believe we can blame Bollywood’s nepotism alone for his death even if it can be considered a bit of wake up call for the industry to treat people, regardless of their connections, better.
I think the main point to be made here is that we, as a population, don’t understand mental health at all.
People are convinced they know why Rajput died by suicide. They’re blaming Sonam Kapoor and Karan Johar. They’re sharing videos of stars where they can be seen talking about Rajput’s appearance and acting and pretending to not know him. In short, people are suggesting that Rajput’s suicide was because of instances like these that are part of a larger agenda to keep new talent out of Bollywood.
I understand the urge for justice, it’s very unfair that star kids who can’t act are gifted opportunities, while brilliant outsiders have to face rejections. Rajput’s suicide hurts because, like many of us, he had big dreams and mental health problems. We want to support real art which affects us profoundly, rather than just pass judgements on the likeness of the famous progeny of infamous Bollywood parents. There are definitely people in Bollywood who use their influence, PR machinery and money to suppress real talent, and they shouldn’t be able to get away with what they do.
But I believe that drawing a direct line of causation between Rajput’s suicide and the way Bollywood treats outsiders does incredible injustice to his struggles with mental health, as well as the struggles of millions others.
By suggesting that Bollywood’s directly to blame for Rajput’s death, we’re saying that if he’d been under KJo’s wings, then he wouldn’t have been depressed. By saying that, we’re revealing we don’t understand mental health at all.
Deepika Padukone, the privileged daughter of a world-renowned badminton player, has opened up about depression several times. Outwardly, she may be someone who is rich, famous, loved, beautiful and at the top of the industry, but inwardly, we all have our own demons to battle – some more than others.
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One of the most common beliefs prevalent in our society is that if someone has a roof over their head, a crystal chandelier hanging from it and a designer dress on, then they have no reason to be depressed.
If Shahrukh Khan were to say he was depressed, would we understand? Would we accept it without being able to pinpoint an obvious cause? Or would we find it unbelievable that someone who ‘has everything’ can still suffer in any way?
If we’re going to only blame nepotism for Rajput’s death, then we’re saying – without realising it – that you can only be depressed if an aspect of your life isn’t going well, and that’s not even half of the reality of depression. Depression is caused by a mixture of genetic and hormonal factors, chemical imbalances in the brain, stressful life events, emotional and physical abuse, and a whole host of other problems.
This doesn’t mean Rajput’s experiences in Bollywood didn’t play a role in his decision — it just means we can’t simply decide that they were and start sending Sonam Kapoor death threats on Twitter.
We decided to see Rajput as a victim and avenge him, but his best friend Rohini Iyer posted on Instagram about how none of that is true. She wrote about how he was so loving, passionate and intelligent and how he didn’t care what Bollywood’s stars thought. He wasn’t after big commercial films; he wanted to pursue things that gave his life meaning and purpose. He was much more than a struggling actor, she wrote, but we’re intent on ignoring her and making him out to be someone whose entire life depended on being produced by Dharma Productions.
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This has to be said . My best friend is no more , I still have a bloody hard time accepting that and whenever I check social media to check up on news on him, I read fiction and instead of finding people online , i see peddlers . Peddlers pushing their agendas to promote themselves and their causes . Every single person who wants their two bit fame has an opinion on his life . Firstly, he didn’t give a fuck about fame or your opinions. He didn’t care about these people who are busy posting about not being in touch with him. For the record, he didn’t care about being in touch. He hated fake friends, phone calls and small talk. He rejected your parties, you didn’t shun him. He rejected your lobbies . He didnt need camps, he had his own kingdom. He was a fighter . He made his own place in the sun. He was an outsider and he never cared about being a insider . That’s because he had a life beyond films. The industry was a small part of his life , he had many worlds beyond that . He didn’t give a shit about success . He never failed . He has given more super hits than any of his other contemporaries . He just didn’t care about the 100 crore club. He didn’t want to belong to any club or be part of the rat race . He didn’t care about awards . He walked out of an award function just cos he got bored . This was even before they announced his best actor award . You had to be a lot more interesting than a bloody trophy to hold his attention. He was a force of nature. His accomplishments are multifold. He was as simple as quantum physics . He was a crazy genius. He read Sartre and Nietzsche , he studied astronomy and stoicism , he wrote poetry , played the guitar , wrote with his left and right hand. He cared about saving the planet , the world , about going to Mars, he invested in charities , in science projects and innovations that were beyond your comprehension . So please don’t try to make sense of him or reduce his talent to serve your mere agenda .
It’s a way for us to express our anger and sadness but, in trying to tell Bollywood to be kinder, we’re forgetting to be kind ourselves.
I doubt Rajput would want people to send death threats to star kids. I doubt that such a kind person would want us to make people feel as bad as he may have at times.
If anything, this is the time to learn about what depression is. It’s the time to have an open conversation about how anyone can suffer from mental illness and about how we can help the people who do.
It’s time to stop treating mental illness like a taboo subject and to start talking about it, going to therapy, and seeing what else we can do so we and the people around us are happier and healthier.
Sonali Mathur is a recent graduate of NYU and a writer, bookworm and dog-lover. She tweets @SonaliMathur20