More than ever, a large part of the film-watching Indian population is enraged by a few insufferably talentless and pompous people, making the Indian film industry their family business for years. People are sharing Tweets and Instagram posts under #nepotism and #bollywoodblockedsushant, and outing certain big names, asking everyone to boycott movies made by these nepotists and their “products” (the actors nurtured by them). Why now, when nepotism has existed in every film industry since the beginning of the industry itself, you ask? Around noon, on June 14, 2020, the news of a 34 year-old Indian film actor, Sushant Singh Rajput’s death by suicide, flashed across every news channel and people all over the country were dumbstruck.
The media was quick to find their own advantage through the situation (like usual), raising TRP by interviewing his close friends, family members, and a few directors who had worked with him. Various people came up with various speculations of the reason behind his death and soon, it came to light that, he was suffering from depression. Most of us thought at first, “Didn’t he have a flourishing career and critically appreciated movies in the box office?” But it turned out, as people looked more and more into it, that Bollywood was a dark place for a simple guy with big dreams and his career was in fact, fading.
Rajput was a talented dancer, a philanthropist and thinker, and no less than an academic genius, having secured 7th position in AIEEE and winning a Physics Olympiad; he dropped out of mechanical engineering to pursue a career in acting. His bucket list was filled with unconventional things that we don’t expect from someone belonging to a superficial industry—he wanted to help educate children, help students’ research on astronomy, learn how to code, and learn more about the universe and space.
Now, Bollywood has always had a name for not taking “outsiders” well. If you weren’t fed with silver spoons at infancy or don’t have a family member already established in the film business, your days in the industry are numbered, and there are big-time bullies to make sure of that. But for the past few years, it has risen to the level that a group of snoots could entirely kill an aspirant’s dream.
A lot of celebrities (directors and actors) expressed their condolences and posted about how "shocked" and saddened they were by the news of his demise. Netizens quickly took to social media themselves, to out the hypocrisy of some of these celebs, saying that they were the same people who used to mock and belittle him for being a small-town guy with big dreams. The actor, who portrayed cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni in his biopic (and did other beautiful unconventional films), was never acknowledged for the consistently stellar performances he delivered in his movies, whereas, star kids are constantly glorified for their mediocrity. If that wasn't enough to drag down his effervescence, in February 2020, the biggest production names like Dharma Productions, Yash Raj Films, Balaji Motion Pictures, Salman Khan Films, Sajid Nadiadwala, T-Series and Dinesh Vijan banned Rajput from their films, leaving him with no other choice than to work in either web shows or television series. Distributors backed away from taking his films into the theatre. Roles initially offered to him were handed to other actors. He was bad-mouthed as "arrogant" and "hard to work with", so that directors backed off from working with him.
The Bollywood Privilege Club must sit down and think hard tonight.— Anubhav Sinha (@anubhavsinha) June 14, 2020
PS- Now don't ask me to elaborate any further.
Directors and other public figures like Anubhav Sinha, Meera Chopra, Prakash Raj and many such notable names have taken strong stands against the lobby system ever since, calling it the ‘Privilege Club’. Posts are pouring in from inside the film fraternity, about the bullying, bias and “ruthless and cruel” treatment of said outsiders! Netizens are asking movie-goers to boycott the big banners and watch quality non-commercialized films instead. And with every blink of our eyelids, they are losing a follower and an audience for their movies. This outrage was long due, but did it have to cost a life?
Although it’s never fair to blame his death on this one reason alone, there is enough proof that it’s a big one. Awareness about mental health and nepotism in the film industry in India has never seen this strong a stand. Let’s hope that it’s not just momentary, and we always always remember that every talent deserves the same chance in every field.