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Sushant Singh’s Suicide and Bollywood

Gurmehar Bhalla | India Tomorrow

MUMBAI, AUGUST 22—Film actor Sushant Singh’s suicide has  attracted unprecedented attention of the media because it not only being probed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Bihar and Mumbai Police but because the government of Bihar has made it a political issue with assembly elections in that state drawing close. If one takes a closer look at the world of glitz and glamour, apart from the daily breaking news, then it can be deduced that a number of film and television personalities have allegedly committed suicide during the lockdown period but there is no discussion on them.

Suicides committed by silver screen personalities is nothing new. There have been cases where the mysteries behind the suicides have remained intact till date. However, the news related to the number of suicides being committed by film and television personalities during lockdown definitely is a cause of major concern.

Who all committed suicide?

Besides Sushant Singh Rajput, his manager Disha Salian, actor Sameer Sharma of Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki and Kyo Ki  Kabhi Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi fame, famed actress of Lal  Ishq Preksha Mehta, Adat Se Majboor actor Manmit Grewal, Bhojpuri actor Shridhar and his sister Kalyani, Kannada film producer Kapali Mohan  and Kannada TV actor Sushil Gowda, all have committed suicide. The main motive behind the suicides have been made economic issues, mounting debts and cheating by partners. Grewal, Anupama Pathak and Kalyani were facing severe economic problems and committed suicide while Preksha Mehta has stated that her dreams came crashing down for which she took the extreme step. Kapali Mohan committed suicide due to business losses while Chandna V K took to suicide because her boyfriend cheated her.

Earlier suicides before the recent ones

Film actress Jiah Khan (2013), Balika Vadhu fame actress Pratyusha Banerjee (2016), Kushal Punjabi (2019), Femina Miss India Universe Nafeesa Joseph (2004), South Indian actress Silk Smitha (1996) had committed suicide previously. Gurudutt, Parveen Bobby and Divya Bharti’s deaths are mysterious till date.

Reason behind suicides in Film World

Suicides are common in all the communities. Anybody can fall for depression and it is not connected with money and lack of success. If you analyse the figures, 40 percent of those committing suicide in India are women but it never makes headlines. Entertainment industry have less number of suicides but highlighting suicide cases of entertainment industry in media raises TRP. Such type of news has no head and tail but grab headlines.

Some examples which I have heard and seen from close quarters

Though the society gets disturbed by hearing news of suicides from the film world but the dark tales of rejection and frustration define the film industry. A number of professionals have overcome issues related to rejection, economic challenges, work pressure, lobbying and relationship and become successful in their careers. Those who survive, thrive in the film world. The success of actress Rekha in the industry deserves mention as she fielded strong questions asked by talk show host Simi Garewal with grace, dignity and patience. Rekha had a thousand reasons to commit suicide but through her open mindedness and positive approach overcame her challenges and became a successful actor.

Besides Rekha, Deepika Padukone and Randeep Hooda had accepted their depression issues. Karthik Aryan, Ayushman Khurana, Vicky Kaushal, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Pankaj Tripathi, Radhika Apte, Tapasi Pannu, Bhumi Pednekar also showed resilience in their career in face of cut-throat competition. Despite the insurmountable challenges, these artistes struggled hard in their lives but did not succumb to the demands of the industry and proved themselves in the film world.

Karthik Aryan narrated that he cannot forget that he used to cry alone every night as he had to remain in queue for an audition  for full day and had no money to rent out a place in Mumbai and made him stay in the distant suburb of Belapur. He used to attend a college in Navi Mumbai and attend audition in Mumbai and used to change clothes in the toilet of Andheri Railway Station. Every day, he faced rejection. This lad from Gwalior whom nobody knew in Bollywood but he had a strong dream of making it big in Bollywood. His grit and determination made his rejection look insignificant which made him take rapid strides of success later on. Tapasi Pannu says that she readied herself for Bollywood and in a very short span of time, started the business of a wedding planner and Pune Badminton team. She took small steps towards success. The struggle for carving out a niche for himself by Nawazuddin Siddiqui are all well-known and well documented.

Dark side of Bollywood:

  • People forget that in Bollywood, fame, grit and glamour, security guards and media publicity is temporary. The age of success and fame is very shortlived. Post-Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan, there has been no actor who has ruled Bollywood for a very long time continuously.
  • Bollywood spending are through the roof and survival expenditure for the industry is too high. Costly cars, developing the capacity to attend high end parties, maintaining public relations (PR) teams and spending for self-maintenance, is a very expensive proposition.
  • There are many things for which spending is required and it cannot be mentioned here. Till you are earning, the expenditure  is there and they are skyrocketing each day. When your earnings recede, depression sets in and the real challenge is to maintain the existing earning to maintain the current status. Sustainability is a big challenge in Bollywood.
  • In Bollywood, work is allotted by reference and production houses are divided into camps. If there is any breakdown in the relationship, then be prepared for loss of work. Once, the position gets disturbed, everybody leaves you in the lurch. Victims get into depression and loneliness. During fame, everybody is with you but when your stars are down, even if you’re dead, people come to know about it after three days.
  • A number of discussions and debates over Bollywood nepotism have taken place over the discussion of Sushant Singh Rajput’s death.
  • Versova and Goregaon suburbs are full of talented artists who are struggling to make it big in Bollywood. A Marathi actress who was working for a web series told me that she actually felt that she should commit suicide. She showed me a number of her Whatsapp messages where the condition was that for this  ‘audition ’, you will have to make this ‘Compromise’ clearly written. After she gave some auditions, she received calls where  she was informed that she would get a certain amount on the condition of a specified compromise. My question is that if you want to work for a film industry, then can you bag a role without compromise?

Economic impact of lockdown on film and TV industry

Cinema houses were shut down as coronavirus epidemic began in the country. A FICCI report has pointed out that cinema halls industry sustained losses to the tune of Rs. 5,000 crores while Bollywood alone suffered a whopping loss of Rs. 13,000 crores alone. The release dates of big films have been postponed and they have been released on over the top(OTT). TV industry functions on daily work where people earn between Rs. 3,000 to Rs. one lakh. The film industry has reduced in its work by 40 percent for its artistes compared to its earlier functioning. Similarly, spot boys, light man and make-up man professions in the industry have ended.

The crowd artistes too have  sustained losses. They used to be paid between Rs 300 to Rs 500 and currently shooting for television  industry is going on at the rate of only 30 percent of crew strength. However, Broadcast Audience Research Council of India (BARC) statistics say that the TV industry has expanded by 11 percent after lockdown. However, before lockdown, from January 4 till March 13, the compounded growth rate stood at 37 percent. Leaving aside big stars, every film actor and especially TV actors have sustained job losses following the lockdown. Earlier, when the crew had 100 persons for shooting, today on tight budgeting, the shooting is taking place with mere 20 crew members. These are the reasons behind increasing depression in the film industry. Loneliness, struggle, long queues for audition, use and throwaway policy, fake smiles, money-oriented approach are the chief factors behind the rise in depression.

When a star actress shows the way to combat depression

I met a star of the seventies who over a coffee told me that instead of getting confined to the bed or minor roles, she went to the doctor to tackle depression during the past five years of depression. She stays alone and is unmarried. She says that she cooks and eats good food, if somebody is there to support, its good and if not, then still it is okay. She goes out alone for walks, sightseeing in the city and the world. She says that she laughs a lot along with her friends. She said that success and  fame is temporary and is restricted for a short time and gets over soon. Nobody can stay at the top forever and has to come down with the time. Today, she does not dye her hair and when asked she narrated she is enjoying her originality. She said that she is happy and having the best time of her life.

What does not kill you, makes you

  • The depression she was talking about is common with the cinema personalities. We tend to think more about the past and also the future. We concentrate on body figure with others, count bungalows, red carpets, staying number one and TRP which is ok for a health competition but if it starts making you diseased then it is a big problem. If you don’t have millions of twitter fans, celebrity trainers, become number two, facial nose is not straight etc. does not mean that you are unsuccessful. Actually, being unsuccessful opens the doors of success and one door leads to the other.
  • The time when we are at the peak of our careers in fame, we had not thought about leaving that position and neither are we prepared for that event. We tend to reject that truth which comes before us like a Tsunami wave and after one stage of life, we have to vacate that space of fame and glamour. Age and situation define the future life and it is worth living at a realistic pace.
  • Nobody does anything for us and we only have to do it for ourselves. Till we are not with ourselves, nobody is with us. Instead of looking for others, let us stand for ourselves. We need to prepare ourselves to face any eventuality by becoming strong and resilient.
  • One must develop the innate capacity of taking risks in life. At the most what will happen is failure but if that happens that things can be redone again. What is reprehensible is not failure but the act of not doing things at all or trying them. If we don’t die while doing something then we can do it again and learn from our past mistakes. There is a saying ‘What Does not Kill You makes You’.  Nothing is permanent in this world whether it is good time or bad time. We must think about what we have rather than what we don’t have. Those who committed suicide, had many reasons to live, and not one reason to die.
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