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The dark, disturbing world of mean and hateful ‘sly’ Bollywood insider gossip featuring Rajeev Masand, PinkVilla and others

Bollywood gossip columnists and film 'critics' are like the mainstream media where the royal babies are pampered and given a free pass, because how dare an outsider try to lay claim on something that is inherently theirs.

Everyone loves to gossip. And while it is prevalent everywhere, when this gossip makes way into mainstream publications and social media with a very sly and passive-aggressive reference, it could be quite tormenting. The mean comments, which under normal circumstances would amount to bullying, get swept under the carpet because, ‘oh, it is only Bollywood,’ or ‘oh, it is only social media’. The bullies, too, think they are being cool by being mean to people over the Internet. Whether it is their own insecurities which turn them into bullies, we shall never know, but the gossip-mongers seldom realise the psychological effect their mean comments can have on their targets.

In light of Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide last month, many theories had emerged. While the case is still under investigation, and even as his relatives suspect foul play, one of the more prominent theories have been he was bullied by the brat packs of the film industry. Prominent film journalists and critics were also accused of writing vile ‘blinds’. ‘Blinds’ are news items where unverified information (read gossip) is passed off without naming anyone but giving ample hints about the person in question.

One such journalist is Rajeev Masand.

Bollywood actor Manoj Bajpayee and Filmmaker Apurva Asrani on Monday took to Twitter to share the terrible things Masand wrote and passed off as Bollywood gossip.

That made us dig a bit deeper and what we found left us dumbfounded.

Here is how it works. Masand writes cinema column in print and digital magazine, Open Magazine. Along with 2 regular Bollywood updates, where he names the actors and actresses while showering praises on them or being critical (though cushioned), Masand will add 1 small ‘blind’. That will be pure gossip, no names given but ample hints on who that person could be.

In September 2017, in a blind item titled ‘Consumed by Insecurity’, Masand wrote (emphasis added):

A young male actor, recently reunited with his mentor, is reportedly giving the unit of his new film a hard time during an outdoor shoot. The actor, who is coming off a big dud, likes to give the impression that he’s all calm and Zen-like, but the crew on the new project says he’s consumed by insecurity.

Word from the set is that he is getting on the nerves of his director, who is trying his best not to pop a blood vessel. The actor is also apparently not thrilled that the crew pampers his female co-star more than him. Some have even said the actress’ mother is keeping a close eye on him, mindful of his skirt-chaser reputation.

Many believe this, too, is about was about Sushant Singh Rajput. You see, Sushant Singh Rajput’s debut movie was Kai Po Che! directed by Abhishek Kapoor. In 2017, Rajput and Kapoor teamed up again for Kedarnath. The ‘pampered’ female co-star would quite possibly be Sara Ali Khan, who was born with the Bollywood spoon in her mouth. How easily Masand character assassinated him and termed Sushant Singh Rajput as a ‘skirt-chaser’.

In his May 2018 column, Masand had talked about an ‘overpaid outsider’. Here is how the blind titled ‘The Price of Being Overpriced’ read (emphasis added):

A certain young actor—until recently regarded as the most promising ‘outsider’ in Bollywood—managed to land a whopping acting fee for a new film he signed with a former studio head who was setting up his own production shingle. It’s a ‘modest budget’ project helmed by a highly regarded indie director, but the actor nevertheless managed to squeeze out a Rs 7 crore cheque from the producer, who, in his hurry to set up a slate of films, may have grossly overpaid.

The problem is that the actor has one mega-sized dud behind him, and despite a few potentially profitable projects on the anvil, some of his sheen appears to have worn off. An action flick he’s made with a top banner is getting mediocre reports, while another project ran into financial trouble and needed to be ‘rescued’ by the same producer.

Insiders are saying the actor needs a hit to bounce back into the reckoning. The ones in his corner are his directors, particularly the one who gave him his debut film and is working with him on his most ambitious project right now. This bullish filmmaker is convinced that his star is only facing a rough patch and has been swearing to anyone willing to listen that his performance in the movie he’s making will bring both revenues and accolades.

He does not name anyone, but give ample hints on who it could be. Diehard Bollywood fans could guess the ‘overpaid’ actor was quite possibly Sushant Singh Rajput.

In November 2019, Masand wrote another blind titled ‘On the back burner’ which many believed to be another sly attack on Sushant Singh Rajput (emphasis added).

When a leading studio recently delayed the release of one of their big-ticket titles by a few months, it became clear to industry insiders that there was a problem. This is a film that the studio has produced in-house and one that has cost them a neat little packet, so it’s very unlikely that they’d postponed the release for no good reason.

The reason, as it turns out, has been staring everyone in the face. The studio has realised that the audience appears to have lost interest in their talented and promising leading man since his name became linked to a scandal. Despite efforts on the part of the studio to deny the rumours, the actor has not been able to revive interest in himself. So much so that he barely benefitted from a big fat hit that he starred in recently. It also doesn’t help that the film’s director was tainted by a similar scandal, whose veracity was also questioned.

Sources say the studio has decided to move the film to next summer in the hope that public memory is short. They’re counting on the possibility that the audience will look at the film—and their leading man—with fresh eyes closer to the release and might be willing to show more enthusiasm for their film, which, by the way, the studio has faith in.

This is quite possibly on Dil Bechara. You see, the official Hindi make of John Greene’s book The Fault In Our Stars hasn’t had quite a smooth ride. The film was initially set to be released in November 2019. However, it got delayed by way too many months before Fox Star Studios announced its online release on its platform Disney+ Hostar. Dil Bechara will now be streamed on 24th July 2020, little over a month after Sushant Singh Rajput breathed his last.

See how Rajeev Masand talks about some ‘scandal’ which ruined the reputation of this actor? Well, his co-star from Dil Bechara, Sanjana Sanghi had accused him of sexual harassment. Rajput had later shared screenshots of his chat with her to prove his innocence. Soon after the reports emerged, Sanjana too denied #MeToo allegations against Rajput.

In his blind, Masand is setting a tone that whoever actor he is talking about has ‘questionable veracity’. That actor has failed to revive the interest of the audience. He is an ‘overpaid’ outsider. He has a drinking problem and is abusive and beats up his girlfriend. He also throws a temper tantrum and is a ‘skirt-chaser’.

Unfortunately, Masand isn’t the only one with nasty bone. Pinkvilla, another online Bollywood gossip blog wrote a blind item on 30th May, 14 days before Rajput committed suicide. In the column titled “Guess Who: This actor has been asked to vacate his apartment after neighbours complain of his lifestyle”, Pinkvilla describes this actor as ‘weird’.

Pinkvilla describes the said actor as “He delivered a huge hit last year, but couldn’t even capitalise on the success of the film. Why? None of the producers were willing to sign him on for their next – either because of his temper tantrums or his condition of casting his recent ladylove (a struggling actress with no clear filmography of sorts) opposite him.” Huge hit? Drive in 2019, ‘temper tantrums’ – as established by Rajeev Masand and other gossip columnists. Ladylove who is a struggling actress? Rhea Chakraborty? Pinkvilla had claimed that because of his lifestyle issues, Sushant Singh Rajput’s neighbours had asked him to leave the apartment. “But if he continues with the same temperament, we won’t be surprised if he’s left with nothing at all. After all, success and failure all come at a price, right?” Pinkvilla says. Right, so that is there.

Reddit user collated all blinds he/she believed were written on Sushant Singh Rajput.

During the MeToo movement, PinkVilla wrote a blind wherein they cast aspersions that the ‘actor’ who “has the habit of befriending the women on sets” (because befriending people of the opposite sex is a crime), might sexually abuse a debutante actress and she may not be safe on an overseas shoot as actor and director are friends. Gossips have no basis, mostly, but they do have wings. A blind came on the same movie in Mumbai Mirror. “This young lady who will be making her film debut later this year seems to have her head firmly screwed to her shoulders. When her co-star, known for his errant ways, came on too strongly, she politely but firmly put him in his place. As word of this got around, another Bollywood producer, a corporate honcho, who also happens to be working with the said male star, immediately took precautionary action and put a formal anti-sexual harassment policy in his company. Better be safe than sorry. Well done, sir.” the piece read.

The new film, as we discussed above, was Dil Bechara, which is to be released later this month.

It seems that the gossip columnists were on an overdrive to make it appear that Sushant Singh Rajput was a womaniser and all he did was go about sexually abusing and molesting women.

And when he was not being painted as a molester, he was portrayed as a difficult person. Remember that Subhash K Jha’s really nasty piece in Congress mouthpiece National Herald, barely a day after Sushant committed suicide? Subhash K Jha had gone to great lengths to prove that Sushant Singh Rajput was having major psychological issues. Citing some unheard of woman as filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt’s close associate, Jha wrote how Mahesh Bhatt thought Sushant Singh Rajput is reaching Parvin Babi level of paranoid schizophrenia.

Bollywood gossip blog ‘The Opinionated Indian’ in May 2018 wrote (emphasis added), “This outsider has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. He has been dating his co-star from his last dud. While she has delivered a hit, his career has been going through a rough patch. There are rumours that he has a drinking problem. He physically abuses his GF & has cheated on her. Despite being a successful actor herself, she chooses to put up with his behaviour rather than dump him. He was known to get drunk at parties & create a scene, post starring in a 100cr+ hit last year.

But one hit is all it will take for him to be the toast of town all over again.”

This, too, many have guessed is about Sushant Singh Rajput. The action film was possibly ‘Drive’ and filmmakers and ambitious project were supposedly Kedarnath with Abhishek Kapoor. Bollywood fans guessed that the ‘dud’ in question is Raabta and he was rumoured to be dating Kriti Sanon, his co-star from the film.

Here is more.

In July 2019, PinkVilla wrote another blind wherein they tried to paint Sushant Singh Rajput as a far more troubled individual. The blind titled “EXCLUSIVE Guess Who: This actor’s girlfriend is creating more trouble for the producers of his next” talked about an actor whose one out of three last films was a hit only because “of the presence of a newcomer actress who belongs to a royal family.” Hmm. Who could it be? (Hint: Pataudi.)

Here is what PinkVilla wrote about the actor, “But the actor has been a very difficult nut to crack. While the team of ADs and others working on the film are already frustrated with his behavioural issues and mood swings, his current girlfriend – who’s also an actress but hardly has any hit to her name – is bringing more chaos on the platter. How? Apparently, during one of the poster shoots for the film, the girlfriend was calling the shots and turned up as the actor’s new manager. Her high handed behaviour left everyone infuriated and now with the trailer and the promotions coming up, the team is already terrified of handling the duo on a regular basis.” (emphasis added.)

There were a few blinds which talked about Sushant slyly as ‘actor who began his career from television’. They almost always had inputs on how the adulation ‘got into his head’. One even suggested he was into substance abuse.

One wonders, then, what really was the anger against Sushant about? That he came from a television background? That he dared to dream big? A film’s success is not credited to him but a ‘newcomer from royal family’ (who to her credit acts better than his father’s new wife) but failures are due to him.

Many might dismiss this as just gossip. And how one shouldn’t have taken these fluff pieces to heart. But these are your very colleagues who are spewing constant venom on you for the consumption of an audience who will make or break your career. These people are helping your fans form an opinion about you, that you are a drug addict or a womaniser and high-handed.

Interestingly, no nasty blinds on the ‘insiders’, the star kids. These gossip columnists and film ‘critics’ are like the mainstream media where the royal babies are pampered and given a free pass, because how dare an outsider try to lay claim on something that is inherently theirs.

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Nirwa Mehta
Nirwa Mehta
Politically incorrect. Author, Flawed But Fabulous.

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