Do Better, Bollywood

TW: SUICIDE

Growing up in an Indian family, I grew to love and cherish the world of Bollywood movies. However, what I didn’t know was the world of nepotism that hid behind these films. I only came to understand the harsh realities of Bollywood with the sudden death of famous actor Sushant Singh Rajput last June. This news came as a shock to many, especially the fact that his death was a suicide. Prior to his death, he was suffering from clinical depression and was taking medication. Afterward, it was confirmed that Rajput signed onto seven films prior to his last film in 2019, but had lost them all within six months. 

Unlike many of Bollywood’s top stars, Rajput grew up poor in Bihar, a state in eastern India. He earned his fame by building his way up through small roles in theater. Rajput was labeled as an outsider from the very beginning of his career, but he managed to break through and build his own reputation. Unfortunately, his story is a stark contrast compared to many Bollywood actors who received lead roles through their rich relatives. Despite how far India has come, the sad legacy of its caste system still holds a prominent place in society today--which ultimately led to the rise of nepotism. Although it wasn’t disclosed as to how or why Rajput lost those seven films, I’m sure that at least one of those films is still in production--but they just found a replacement for him. This replacement easily could’ve been a rich producer’s son who offered extra cash for his son to debut. This situation certainly wouldn’t be surprising as there are plenty of instances (yes, Arjun Kapoor, I’m looking at you) where someone who has little to no acting experience is pushed into the spotlight solely because they come from a rich background. This is nepotism at its finest: favoritism granted through such “connections.” 

It’s no surprise that Rajput gradually fell into a state of hopelessness after observing this right in front of his eyes. The world lost an amazing actor due to a corrupt system that has yet to be properly recognized in India. While we watch a movie, we never stop to consider why or how a certain actor got their place in the movie. Was it through their own hard work? Or was it through connections? We’re too absorbed into the entertainment of the movie and how it benefits us rather than taking a look at how this movie came about.

We take the Bollywood industry for granted, myself included. Sushant Singh Rajput’s unfortunate passing was a cruel awakening for me. I never expected an industry that I was so close to, because of how it encompassed the beauty of my culture, to rely on such dirty tricks in order to produce these movies I grew up watching. 

Thinking about Sushant still aches my heart to this day. He was a bright actor who was a role model for anyone who hesitated following their dreams because of their past. But now, his legacy lives on for Indians all over the world. He lives on as a call to action for Bollywood to do better in order to prevent their brightest stars from dimming.