Updated: June 22, 2020 8:28:56 pm
Nepotism in Bollywood is real and rampant. The industry is largely run by a few clans, promoting their kin at the cost of talented outsiders, who are robbed of opportunities, and the audience, which is robbed of quality content. All these problems need to be acknowledged and discussed. None of these problems can be solved by heaping abuses on individual actors and subjecting them to vile trolling.
Actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide last week was met with understandable shock. However, on social media, the initial outpouring of grief and conversations about mental health rapidly gave way to conspiracy theories, allegations of dark plots, and soon enough, some “villains” had been zeroed in upon – recognisable faces on which to pin blame, and then mercilessly, relentlessly abuse.
The vitriol came in two forms – against the “poster children of nepotism” (Sonam Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Karan Johar, Sonakshi Sinha), and against the women in Rajput’s life (rumoured girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty, former girlfriend Ankita Lokhande).
Sonam Kapoor has shared screenshots of some of the hate that came her way, with people wishing death on her and her future children. Sonakshi Sinha has deactivated her Twitter account, saying the best way to “protecting your sanity is to stay away from negativity”.
This is some of comments coming my way. All the media and all the people who’ve encouraged this sort of behaviour and instigated it. This is on you. People talking about how one should have been kind to someone are doing worse to others. pic.twitter.com/6rH4LSBOxp
— Sonam K Ahuja (@sonamakapoor) June 21, 2020
Rhea Chakravorty has been accused of “not being there for Sushant when he needed her”, her pictures with Mahesh Bhatt shared with idiotic allegations, and an FIR filed against her for abetment to suicide.
All of this is being done in the same breath as pleas to “be nice to each other”, “fight negativity”, and “be supportive, not toxic”.
Fault in Our Stars
The nepotism machinery in Bollywood is well-run, deciding everything from who gets what project to the kind of money poured into it to its eventual distribution and screening. Often, lower-budget movies never even make it to theaters in smaller towns. Beneficiary actors are the most visible symbol of a large and complex system.
However, the audience in India has for years lapped up one mediocre offering after another, simply because they featured some of these “nepo kids”, as Kangna Ranaut eloquently refers to them.
The audience has every right to demand a change in this “nepo culture”, but the way for that is through sustained conversations, demand for better content, and spending decisions.
Picking on a few actors and threatening them with rape and death is not about ending nepotism, but simply about spewing bile on easy targets.
Mental health, and the mad rush to find villains
Sushant Singh Rajput had been struggling with mental health – an issue little understood, little acknowledged in India. One of the worst ways to disgrace his memory is subjecting others to bullying and mental harassment.
The actor’s father K K Singh told the police his family didn’t know the reason behind Rajput’s depression. But on social media, everyone seems to know exactly why Rajput was depressed, who was responsible for it, and what should be done to them.
Matters have not been helped by Kangana Ranaut, who, in two posts ostensibly about Sushant Singh Rajput, has made wild allegations, dismissed mental health problems as “dimaag kamzor (weak brain)”, and centralised her own purported victimisation.
Social media can be a toxic space, with people feeling powerful by heaping venom on public figures they will never face. But these ‘figures’ are human beings, and can’t be expected to be impervious to the negativity thrown at them.
Director Abhishek Kapoor termed Rajput’s treatment by the film fraternity and the media a “systematic dismantling of a fragile mind.”
It is wrong, irresponsible and plain crass to use his death as a fulcrum to dismantle the privacy and mental peace of others.
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