It’s been four days since the death of beloved Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput came to light, and his fans and friends are still reeling from the shock. Sushant died by suicide on Sunday, and his demise has brought to light the plight of ‘outsiders’ in the industry. In fact, several industry insiders have spoken up about the hypocrisy of the Bollywood’s elite, who posted tributes for him on social media but alienated him in real life.
There has been a lot of speculation about why a brilliant and loved actor like Sushant would take such a drastic step, and Mumbai police are currently investigating a professional rivalry angle. Netizens are also calling out the ‘Bollywood mafia’ which includes director Karan Johar, for propagating nepotism in the industry and launching mostly star kids.
One director, who recognised Sushant’s talent and his immense potential, is Abhishek Kapoor. Abhishek was the one who launched Sushant into Bollywood with his first film, Kai Po Che, and said his death felt like the loss of a child. “Launching a new actor is almost like a motherly or fatherly act…it’s like you’ve got this piece of gem. And then when you do put him out there in the world, when he’s celebrated, there is a bond…that sticks.”
Abhishek was in conversation with journalist Shoma Choudhury, and told her that Sushant was more than an actor–he was an artist. “Artistes are fragile, they need to be taken care of. I can make a film and make sure the audience likes it and likes you, but I cannot guarantee validation.”
Sadly, when it comes to Bollywood, recognition only comes in the form of awards, but according to Abhishek, they are no markers of an actor’s talent. “Validation comes from award functions and those are terrible. Then there is talent management who will look at you as only a commodity they can sell. You need to understand the talent you’re working with and then decide how you want to market it. You want to make crores off him, at least bespoke a package where his mind is maintained spiritually so he can give you better things,” he added.
Abhishek revealed that Sushant had switched several managers over the course of his career, and perhaps it was because they could never recognise his innate talent. “They tell you who to work with and who to compete with, (but) an artist can only compete with himself and better himself.”
In fact, Abhishek feels that Sushant’s brilliance and talent were misunderstood by the entire industry itself. And perhaps that’s why Bollywood’s inner circles and cliques alienated him and mocked him. “It’s a systematic dismantling of a fragile mind. Sushant was brilliant, he was an engineer, he was into astrophysics and quantum physics. But because we couldn’t box him into stereotypes we called him ‘off’. He was off…off your radar. There’s this thing (in the industry) that if you’re not like us then you can’t be with us. There are so many camps that if you’re not part of a camp, even if you’re in the middle of a room, you will be ignored. It is true, especially for actors. I, as a filmmaker, can isolate myself. I can warn a young actor but he cannot see it at the time because the lights are so bright. You lose yourself.”
Abhishek and Sushant got the chance to work on a film together again in 2018, for Kedarnath. The director felt that he had noticed that something was bothering him. “He was very troubled while we were shooting for Kedarnath. But when we shot, he was 100 percent there. He never threw tantrum, it was cold, he had to carry Sara on his back, and he never said no if I asked for retakes.”
Abhishek’s interview has thrown light on the aspects of the industry that are usually thrown under the rug by Bollywood’s powerful…nepotism, elite cliques and the dismal treatment of outsiders. Hopefully, Sushant’s death will serve as a wake-up call to the industry, and they will finally give credible actors the talent and recognition they deserve…irrespective of their last name.
Featured Image: Instagram