The Internet has become a toxic space. To call it a privilege, I have never been clinically diagnosed with anxiety and depression but when I come on the Internet, I experience two emotions: Either I want to know it all to the point of feeling guilty (mind you, it can get a lot) or I want to shut it all off. Ever since the demise of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput, the chatter has just increased manifold. A young talented actor gone too soon. His demise felt personal to all of us. I will not delve into the aspect of whether it was a suicide or a murder because we have the concerned authorities to do their job. Whether the truth comes out, whether that truth aligns with popular narrative or not is something that only time will tell.
However, what strikes me the most is the politicisation of the matter. Mud slinging at the departed soul’s family, his ex-girlfriend or women who have been previously linked with him or his friends, colleagues, industry insiders and the list goes on. It feels as if almost everyone is under a scanner. Increasingly, everyone is expected to clear his or her stand. Media trials are at its best, with different versions and different truths emerging every single day. The conversation on mental health is raging as if everyone is an expert. And the fact of the matter? Everyone is clueless of what is actually happening.
We have seen several celebrity deaths in the past and they have been given by more or less the same treatment. After all, who can forget the chatter that followed after Sridevi’s death?! But this time, the debate is on a whole another level. Or what I’d like to call politicising the dead. We have people coming up with their own version of what might have happened and one that suits their agenda. We have a state government trying to justify the suicide theory. A section of Twitter warriors allege pressure while another alleges that it is all to save some of their own. We have political leaders who have their own reasons to allege the murder theory.
And then we have a top ranked actress, calling out the supposed ‘movie mafia’. Her loud and bold voice has almost launched a war against the powerful guns of Bollywood. Strangely, the fight is not just the filmmakers and big banners. It is against everyone on the other side of the fence, be it the star kids, superstars or even people who have made it on their own in the industry. What this has led to is sort of a cancel culture, where everyone is cancelling everyone.
Sadak 2 is just one example and just the start. Some say silence is golden but until when? One of the comments under Sadak 2’s latest song Tum Se Hi terms the outrage an attempt to collapse the entire film industry. To think of it, if it does happen, the economic impact and job losses would be exponential and the people, who would be most impacted, would have nothing to do with the politics of it.
Some of the names that come to our mind when we think of Bollywood, including Shah Rukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra and Akshay Kumar are not from a filmy background. They were not born with a golden spoon. If they reached the pinnacle of success, then it was because the audience accepted them. Who is to blame in this case? Them or the audience? To be honest, nobody. There are two sides of the coin. One side says the talent and hard work reigns supreme. Another speaks of the business of cinema. If you enjoy a huge fan following and if the film is good, it will mint money and more filmmakers would walk to work with you.
All the films that release in a year are not backed by big banners or headlined by superstars but how many of us go to watch it? Who is to blame then? Outsiders become superstars only when the audiences and industry comes together to welcome them with open arms. If we have had success stories, we have also had starkids who failed to make their mark.
What we see right now is a vicious cycle of hatred. Today, we are expressing our outrage over Sushant’s death. If the same culture takes a toll upon another celebrity, the conversation would still be the same. Just with another name and another narrative. Call out people for you will, but let the departed soul be at peace and their family deal with their loss. Celebrate his work rather than jumping onto the bandwagon of cancel culture. Think of what purpose does it serve and are you fuelling a young person’s desire to become an actor? Or are you brushing real topics like toxic work culture and the much-needed conversation on mental health under the carpet?