Sushant Singh Rajput: More than just an actor

It’s been a year since his death but the late Bollywood star continues to weave a legacy.



By Somya Mehta

Published: Sun 13 Jun 2021, 11:30 PM

Last updated: Mon 14 Jun 2021, 9:04 AM

There’s a phrase that says, “Don’t let anyone ever dull your sparkle.” But in a few cases, you cannot dull this sparkle. SSR was and will always remain one such case. He may have passed on but his sparke still remains with us. You can’t dim the shining light of this star.

Today marks the death anniversary of Sushant Singh Rajput, the actor best known for his work in Hindi cinema, but perhaps, unknown to the audience, in many ways. It was a year ago, on June 14, 2020, that the sudden passing away of this young and unquestionably promising artist sent unfathomable shockwaves across India. The investigation into his death, which became a topic of excruciating national debate, right from the living room trials to legal court cases, is yet to be concluded. But much like the legal investigation, the memories of SSR also continue to linger on, in the minds of the fans and non-fans alike, permeated by the unfulfilled hopes of catching one last glance of that ever-so-infectious smile.

SSR’s demise triggered all the unsaid truths and haunting questions that surround the notion of death, with fans flooding his social media handles with comments, too difficult to read or make sense of.

Perhaps, the onset of a life-altering pandemic, played a role in intensifying the emotions. At a time when death had already pervaded households, with widespread suffering and coming to terms with one’s own mortality became a daily ritual, the untimely demise of SSR catapulted to a commentary on mortality itself, no longer limited to him or the Bollywood fraternity.

At a time when emotions of grief and anxiety were already running high in society, SSR’s passing away came like a hard hitting truth of time and the society we inhabit, as human ‘beings’. The heavily contemplated reasons for his passing away became entrenched in all that is wrong in our society — be it the complacency of the legal systems, entertainment industry or even the common people. Much like the list of his Instagram followers, people suddenly seemed to take a lot more notice of a talent that had long been amongst them, mellowing in the could’ve, would’ve, should’ve of the star’s fortune.

While the reasons may be too many to jot down, to honour the actor’s death anniversary today, we spell out a few of those that may have made the passing away of SSR more than just a departure of a free soul — a commentary on mortality, itself, as a product of its time and place in society.

Culmination of dreams

In a country like India, a country filled with dreamers and a disproportionately lesser number of achievers, a country where dreams are sold and consumed in abundance, yet buried under layers of failed realisations and self-oppression — signifying a stark disconnect between one’s ground realities and aspirations — the passing away of Sushant Singh Rajput felt almost as if one’s right to dream had been brutally snatched away. With his expansive career right from becoming a star of primetime TV, in Pavitra Rishta, to helming critically acclaimed feature films, like M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story and Chhichhore, SSR’s career path had not only been aspirational, to say the least, but also became synonymous to the hustle — a feat of daring to dream and realising those dreams.

Living up to his ‘dreamer’ persona, in 2019, the actor penned down ‘50’ dreams that he wanted to achieve, in a handwritten note, which went viral on social media. The list was also one of the first times that his fans got an intimate window inside the artist’s mind, encompassing multifaceted interests, amongst which, acting was only the tip of the iceberg.

More than just a Bollywood hero

Much like the inventory of his dreams, the persona of SSR was multifarious and almost thoroughly left unexplored by the film industry and media outlets that had access to the actor. He was so much more than just an actor or an A-lister. His deep-rooted fascination with metaphysics, stargazing with his collection of telescopes and endless musing over life and creation were a side of his personality that his fans got a glimpse of, through his social media, but never enough. It’s almost as if there was another person inside the actor as we knew him, who went unnoticed. And was aching to come out. To share his experiential view of the world, no matter how different or same it might have been.

Besides his niche interests in physics and philosophy, his philanthropist nature, too, remained hidden from the public eye. Sushant Singh Rajput worked with several NGOs on the down-low, making notable contributions, including the Rs1crore donation to the Chief Minister Relief Fund, during the Kerala floods in 2018, on behalf of his fan. In an industry known to be crippled by self-obsession and publicity gimmicks, the selflessness of the star went largely unnoticed, due to his unassuming nature, often translated to his ‘understated hero’ persona on-screen. He was a misfit in a society programmed to scream out even the smallest of accomplishments.

Once an outsider, no longer among us

With his understated off-screen and on-screen personality, what tugged most intensely on people’s heartstrings was a simple truth — his last name. He was an ‘outsider’ in a close-knit fraternity, often guarded by the top dogs, sheltered away from the reach of a commoner. Without many networks and ‘godfathers’, he pierced through the industry on merit, talent and relentless pursuit of achieving everything that he had envisioned for himself. An engineering drop-out, coming from an upper-middle-class family in Patna, he brought the story of an underdog to life, in a way in which only a handful of actors had managed to, before him. Anyone could be Sushant Singh Rajput, yet, nobody could. Although the nepotism debate has been doing rounds in the Bollywood industry for a while now, the demise of SSR came as a stark reminder of the society’s dismissal of the ‘outsider’, someone who doesn’t share the same worldview as the majority, being let in and eventually, let down.

Neglecting mental health

Even though the narrative around mental health has drastically evolved over the last decade, emotional battles like depression, stress and anxiety are still brushed under the carpet. If we were to reflect on our own lives, our friends, family, colleagues — was there ever a time where we found it easier to turn a blind eye to someone’s suffering?

People’s emotional discomfort had already been at centrestage due to the pandemic, when the news of Sushant’s alleged suicide broke the Internet, as a wakeup call to prioritise one’s mental health. Maybe, it went an inch deeper than that, it called people out for their complacency. Not only the Bollywood ‘insiders’, Sushant’s peers, but also the rest of the population, triggering a collective emotion of guilt. Personal responsibility. Of each time someone looked away, ignoring the pain behind a forced smile.

somya@khaleejtimes.com


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