Sushant Singh Rajput’s death puts nepotism in spotlight again; industry divided on the debate
“If you don’t watch it, then they’d throw me out of Bollywood. I have no Godfather. I’ve made you (all) my Gods and fathers. Watch it if you want to see me survive in Bollywood”. These words of late actor Sushant Singh Rajput haunt as one scrolls through his Instagram feed and read the many comments where he urged fans to come and watch his films.
Soon after the news of his death broke on Sunday, there has been a flurry of posts on social media blaming a particular section of Bollywood for pushing him to take this drastic step, with #nepotismkilledsushant trending on top. Once again putting the spotlight on a subject that was brushed under the carpet for long until actor Kangana Ranaut called out filmmaker Karan Johar on his talk show, Koffee With Karan, as the ‘flag-bearer of nepotism’.
Now, with Rajput gone, and it being alleged that he was suffering from clinical depression, many claim it’s because he was made to feel an ‘outsider’ in Bollywood and was never welcomed as one of their own.
Divided on the debate, many from the industry feel it’s time nepotism ends and genuine talent gets a chance they deserve, while some maintain that Rajput’s death has got nothing to do with the star-kid culture.
In a tweet, actor Ranvir Shorey called out the “self-appointed gatekeepers of Bollywood” and he strongly wants such practices to stop. He tells us, “Opportunity needs to be made available on talent and merit, not networking and family connections. Talent should be rewarded based on performance and not pedigree. This need to have only pliable talent as stars stinks of fascism. Instead, we need a more free and democratic system to prevail.”
Though actor Taapsee Pannu, who made a mark in films without any connections, agrees that nepotism exists, she questions what will be the final deciding parameter while casting actors?
“Who’s there to check if one is talented enough for a role and who’s taken on sheer contact basis? It’s more of a conscious call that people should prefer the ‘right’ talent not something that can be put an end to one fine day because of this tragic loss we all went through,” she says.
Over the last two days, there have been several voices against this culture of sidelining not-so-successful actors.
Actors Kangana Ranaut and Sikandar Kher put up videos urging everyone “to stop talking behind people’s back”. Actor Vivek Oberoi penned a heartfelt message wishing “I could have shared my personal experience with Sushant and helped him ease his pain”.
A true-blue outsider, Amol Parashar in a twitter thread admitted “being shaken as a young actor” adding “in a profession as uncertain as this, you need sources of hope”. Actor Raveena Tandon, too, made shocking revelations that the “mean girl gang” exists in Bollywood and that she was often replaced in films.
Filmmaker Hansal Mehta’s cautioned “outsiders” in a series of tweets and labelled Bollywood “an establishment that will make you feel like the next big thing until they need you. They will drop and mock you as soon as you falter”. While filmmaker Anubhav Sinha urged “The Bollywood Privilege Club must sit down and think hard tonight”, filmmaker Shekhar Kapur, in a sobbing tweet for Rajput, hinted at the “people that letyou down” leaving many guessing and asking him who he was referring to.
Actor Gulshan Devaiah called it a myth that Bollywood is “one big family” and he explains that “it’s a fictitious place where you work and if you consider it your family, it’s going to break your heart.”
Talking to HT, he adds why nepotism ever should come in way of anyone’s career. “Some people will always have an advantage over others, so it’s a lot of favouritism and power struggle out there than nepotism. People want validation from those in power and this exaggerated idea of importance gets blown out of the proportion, which isn’t right,” says Devaiah, adding that, “Although I don’t know why Sushant did what he did. He had such a promising career ahead and was an inspiration to many people.”
In fact, Rajput himself had once said that “nepotism can coexist but if you deliberately don’t allow right talent to come up, then there’s a problem”.
Meanwhile, there are several hashtags such as #BoycottKaranJoharMovieGang #NepotismInBollywood #BollywoodBlockedSushant trending on twitter. While Karan Johar has so far maintained silence on this entire debate, actor Sonam Kapoor put up an angry tweet calling people “ignorant” for blaming other for someone’s death.
Sonakshi’s Insta story read, “...Your spewing negativity, hate and toxicity is really not required right now.” While both were trying to defend their fraternity, they ended up facing flak for being a part of the nepotism gang.
Having said that, here’s the big question: Is it really right to blame the star-kid-brigade for what happened to Rajput?
Industry veteran and trade analyst Komal Nahta calls it “stupid” to blame nepotism for an actor’s death. “It’s only a handful of people who’ve given such bad name to the whole Hindi film industry. Are Karan Johar and Aditya Chopra so big that the entire industry would listen to them? Why didn’t all other producers and directors make a film with Sushant? That’s because he was very selective and very particular about the films he would sign. Every actor is out of work sometimes for six months because they have conditions and aren’t in a hurry. Now, because there’s nobody to answer, people are saying he was out of work; sorry don’t insult him. He was out of work by choice. He wanted the right film and wanted to take his time,” elaborates Nahta.
Pannu shares a similar sentiment and adds, “It’s disheartening to reduce such a tragic loss to just nepotism. People going on debates and passing statements about the deceased probably don’t know him personally at all and what he was going through and why. He climbed the ladder because of merit and no godfather, and I’m sure he faced enough struggle. He saw good and bad side of this business but I don’t think that can be the only reason to push him to this extent that he decided to end it all. A person who rose to fame from the scratch all by himself can’t be so fragile to break with this one issue,” says Pannu, asserting that those commenting on Rajput’s death, “as if they know it all should just stop and ask themselves what can they do to bring about a positive change.”
Though not in favour of blaming any group for this tragedy, “unless there’s clear evidence of them harassing Sushant”, Shorey is quick to add, “Having said that, I’ve seen enough to know the kind of games people play in this business.”
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