The Talk around Suicide is Necessary. But Not to Win a Twitter Fight Like Chetan Bhagat

Bollywood

The Talk around Suicide is Necessary. But Not to Win a Twitter Fight Like Chetan Bhagat

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

Author Chetan Bhagat is the latest name to wade into the muckraking that has gone on ever since the actor Sushant Singh Rajput died by suicide last month. Over a month after the tragic incident took place, Rajput’s death is still the subject of debates on news channels and arguments on social media. However, the goal posts have shifted, and discourse around the topic has warped to the point where nepotism and elitism are at the heart of the matter and suicide has often been redcued to a buzzword. Bhagat took to Twitter to call out Bollywood critics before Rajput’s final film Dil Bechara releases this Friday, and in doing so joined the chorus of voices claiming that Bollywood’s insider culture is responsible for the deteriorating mental health of the so-called “outsiders” in the industry.

Bhagat’s tweet received a wave of popular support, as an entire section of social media seems to believe in a conspiracy theory that Rajput’s death was not a suicide but in fact a “murder” planned by Bollywood elites. When film critic Anupama Chopra attempted to dismiss Bhagat’s statement, he pointed to his own experiences in Bollywood. In a reply to Chopra, he alleged that her husband, producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra, bullied him and almost drove him to suicide at the time when Bhagat’s novel Five Point Someone was being adapted into the film 3 Idiots.

Bhagat’s claim that he contemplated taking his own life, if true, is testament to how toxic the environment is in Bollywood’s upper echelons. But while Bhagat is entitled to speak of his own experiences, superimposing those experiences onto Rajput’s demise is flawed thinking. Rajput did not leave behind a suicide note, and the police investigation is still ongoing. We might never know if it was really Bollywood’s elitism that drove him to take that drastic step. Turning his suicide into a platform for a vendetta against some nexus of Bollywood biggies is disrespectful at best, if not self-serving and disingenuous.

Actress Kangana Ranaut, who has been an extremely vocal proponent of the conspiracy theory around Rajput’s sucide, comes across in such fashion. While on Republic TV speaking about the actor (despite never working with him), she was unable to back up her claims of Rajput being “murdered”. She later said that she too contemplated suicide, before clarifying that she meant she would “shave her head” and “disappear”. She did neither of those things, but instead turned up on primetime TV to claim Bollywood had almost pushed her to suicide (it didn’t), and that the same had been done with Rajput.

The conversation around suicide is necessary but not to win a Twitter fight or for headline-worhty bytes on national television. The incessant sniping that followed Rajput’s death has made a mockery of the saying “Rest in Peace”. The actor’s legacy should have been his excellent body of work, but people like Bhagat and Ranaut are intent on shifting the focus onto those they perceive have wronged them.

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