The Media Circus Around Sushant Singh Rajput’s Death Has Another Victim: Shibani Dandekar

Social Commentary

The Media Circus Around Sushant Singh Rajput’s Death Has Another Victim: Shibani Dandekar

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Every circus has a show bill. The main event is always preceded by opening attractions and filler programming. The media circus surrounding the investigation of actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death is no different. While the main event is Rajput’s ex-girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty being investigated by three central government agencies, there are smaller sideshows as well. Kangana Ranaut versus the Maharashtra state government is one such diversion, and now, Shibani Dandekar versus Ankita Lokhande has also thrown its hat into the fray. And just like every other feud in this story, internet trolls form the third side of this toxic triangle. The pro-Sushant, pro-Ankita commenters on social media have taken to harassing Dandekar for speaking out against Lokhande.

Lokhande had earlier joined in the chorus of voices seeking to blame Chakraborty for Rajput’s drug use, a stand that Dandekar opposed. However, in calling out Lokhande, Dandekar made herself a target for the online mob that lurks waiting to pounce on anyone who contradicts the narrative that Rajput was a wholesome, innocent boy (a 34-year-old boy, to be precise) who was led astray by the manipulative woman Chakraborty. Lokhande’s peers from the television industry speaking out in her support was expected, but sadly, the malicious online bullying from trolls was equally predictable.

For some petty, vindictive reason, anonymous trolls “vandalised” Dandekar’s Wikipedia page by editing the content to include a derogatory bio that insults Dandekar by calling her a “gold-digger”, her career a “flop career”, and also targets her boyfriend Farhan Akhtar by calling him a “B-Grade Oblivion Actor”. It’s a pathetic act, equivalent to spreading rumours about an unpopular student in middle school, and reflects on the maturity of those who think it was a fitting response to Dandekar’s original comment.

Some trolls went even further and vandalised the page of Anusha Dandekar, Shibani’s sister. It wrongly claimed that the Dandekar siblings are both dating Akhtar at the same time, when Anusha has been in a public relationship with actor Karan Kundra for years. By dragging silent bystanders and family members into the fracas, the trolls have proved they are willing to stoop to any low to harass their targets.

If you still think of social media as a fun and benign diversion, try being a woman with an opinion like Shibani Dandekar and see how quickly your view changes.