We have witnessed multiple debates on social media over the suicide of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput in the last few days. The Bollywood ‘fraternity’ reacted instantly after his demise. No wonder- their views are categorically distinct from one another.
A group of celebrity suddenly poured their sympathy for Sushant by concerning mental health. Few other celebrities are pointing towards the ‘dark secrets’ of the industry but with ambiguity. On the other hand, celebrities like Kangana Ranaut and Abhinav Kashyap are bringing out the issue of hegemonic control and bullying of ‘the elite club’ of the industry.
Immediately after the incident, ‘maintaining mental health’ became the talk of the town! I was surprised a little bit. How can they talk about his mental health with so much conviction?
The contemporary system desperately tries to make us believe that mental health is an entirely ‘individual responsibility’. The system is in a mess to take care of the mental health of its people. It does not want to be responsible either for making the mess! So the elites, along with the religious gurus are sending ‘the message’. Some ‘gurus’ have gone too far. They often say that ‘happiness’ comes from ‘inside’, so you can be happy even if everything around you is in a mess! So when people are expressing sympathy focusing on mental health- it carries a different meaning. They are saying that he was not strong enough to carry his ‘individual responsibility’ for ‘being happy’! But, yes, they are ‘great’ enough to have sympathy for a tragedy that no one is responsible for- except the victim.
The group of ‘dark secrets’ are smarter. You know that something is seriously wrong- but you choose to make an ambiguous statement with some vague hints. Their stand displays the fear of ‘being outcast’. The ‘fear of being outcast’ itself indicates a darker side of the industry. It indicates the prevailing institutional hegemonic structures. A Few bullies are just a visible part of the iceberg.
People like Kangana Ranaut and Abhinav Kashyap are talking about the ‘darker side’ of Bollywood by directly pointing out at few biggies in the industry. It’s a rebellious act. But, the basic structure of the industry is responsible for making space for the biggies and their hegemonic groups. The pack of hyenas are everywhere in the country. They are just more visible in the film industry and politics. But they are equally dominant and cruel in the business, media or intelligentsia- few domains that influence the country so much. However, the masses are in shock after his death, and they are supporting Kangana Ranaut as well as Abhinav.
So, the question rises- why his suicide shocked and surprised so many people across the country? Probably, the celebrity lifestyle that we see through media provides the masses with a sense of escapism in the disguise of ‘hope’. The media provides ‘evidence’ in the form of pictures that ‘paradise’ exists. Celebrities live in this paradise. We see their happy faces every moment in our everyday life. The celebrities are the flag bearers of ‘commoditised happiness’. Like any other commodities, they need to display it for sale. It is so ironical that Sushant’s last movie ‘Chhichhore’ was about a suicide attempt and overcoming the sufferings. His widely circulated IIT Bombay lecture was about ‘being happy’. So, his suicide is a question mark about the ‘paradise’. Did somebody else force him to ‘sale’ a ‘formula of happiness’? Is this formula fake like the ‘fairness cream’?
Suicide happens every day in this country. Even children are committing suicide- but that does not surprise us anymore. Committing suicide is normalised in the hell a long time ago. The elites of the country like to tell us the stories of people like Sushant Singh Rajput and we love to hear it. They successfully migrated from hell to paradise. They are examples to convince the masses that it is possible to climb to the ‘top’ of the hegemonic pyramid. You can climb up to that point- if you have ‘talent’ or if you work hard. These stories are necessary for maintaining the status quo. Majority of us believe these stories. But the suicide is a question mark on these stories! That is shocking and surprising!
The hyper-real entity deters us from making an instant conclusion. It may sound sceptical- but, what if the statements made by Kangana Ranaut or Abhinav Kashyap are just a part of the stories that the system is telling us! We will never know the ‘real’ story of Sushant Singh Rajput. But we are getting multiple stories. Probably- some of them are very close to the ‘real’.
Abhijit Ray, PhD Research Scholar, JNU, New Delhi. Email: email@example.com