The mysterious death of popular Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput has opened a can of worms. There has been a vicious attack against superstars and leading production homes who have resorted to nepotism and bullying of actors who are ‘outsiders.’ But was the death a suicide?
One of the most talented Bollywood actors, Sushant Singh Rajput, died on the morning of June 14, 2020, at his residence in Bandra, Mumbai. The initial shock of his death hit his friends, relatives and fans very hard. A preliminary police investigation suggested it was a suicide by hanging, but several doubts about how he died, have since surfaced. Several details were being tweeted with images and videos. The case came under close public scrutiny.
The question that most people asked was how could an actor of his calibre quit life so easily. Initially, most news angles explored death due to depression theory. And social media was inundated with messages from politicians to media Moghuls expressing their sorrow at his sudden death. Very few questioned the circumstances that led to his death. But for the ones who really loved and missed him; his friends, relatives and fans, there were niggling doubts. His death was a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces just did not fit.
Following the sequence of events closely, what could be ascertained was that, the night before he died, he had returned with some friends at around 10.30 and had continued to celebrate, as the neighbours had heard hooting sounds coming from his apartment in Bandra. Two of his friends stayed the night over.
Next morning he goes for a walk, returns and plays games on his PlayStation and then takes a glass of pomegranate juice with him to his room. Later when the cook knocks on his door to ask him what he wanted for lunch, there was no answer. The friends, who stayed overnight, and the cook call a lock man to open his door and find him hanging. They then call Sushant’s sister and the police.
The police arrive and continue with their proceedings including taking his medical file with prescriptions, which was by his bedside table. And his body is taken by his friend, Sandeep Singh, to Cooper Hospital for post mortem. Hours after this, Sushant Singh Rajput’s family allege that he was murdered and demanded a police investigation in his untimely death, and a forensics team reach his residence to collect evidence the same afternoon.
The scene of crime, before his body was taken out, pointed out several discrepancies between what the police were divulging and what was actually seen in the room with the help of video and photographs:
- The police reported he had used the bed to hang himself, (there was no stool or chair). This seemed next to impossible, as the height between the bed which is around 1.5 to 2ft height and the fan seemed far too less for a man of 6 ft, weighing around 75 kilos, to hang to death from the video footage that has been seen. This is, of course, assuming that the height of the room is 9 feet. The green cloth, which lay on the bed, was torn and a part of it still hung from the fan, it appeared too flimsy to hold his height and weight.
- Some have alleged that the duplicate keys to his bedroom were missing, (normally a person would entrust duplicate keys, in this case computerized keys, to someone he trusted greatly). If this is true, who had the keys and why were they missing? The cook and two of his friends who had stayed overnight, did not break open the door instead they called a locksmith who makes the key and opens the door. When the key was a computerized one, how did they get a locksmith to make one so easily and so fast?
- Police found his medical documents and prescriptions by his bedside. Why would one normally leave their medical documents there, was it an attempt by someone to show he was depressed and was taking medicines?
- The body itself had strangulation marks that were round in shape and not V-shaped which is how it would look when one commits suicide. Several images showed the dark indent, which could not have been caused by a flimsy dupatta, but something far stronger, like a rope.
- The normal signs of struggle, when a man commits suicide too were missing, his face was neither blue, nor were his eyes or tongue protruding. Instead looking at his images, you notice that there were bruises near his forehead, one eye and arms. One eye was partially open and the skin around it looked dark. How did these bruises appear if it was just a normal case of suicide?
- Fudge, his dog reportedly did not bark or create an alert when all this transpired. So where was the dog when this happened? The videos show him confused, sad and looking for his owner, so was the dog drugged?
- His autopsy report showed asphyxia due to hanging, which itself does not mean suicide, it could mean he was strangled by someone, and then the whole thing could have been staged as a suicide.
- While the viscera report showed there were no chemicals found in his body. The glass from which he had drunk pomegranate juice after going to his bedroom was missing in his room.
- The last calls he made were to Rhea Chakraborthy, his girlfriend, at 1.47am and Mahesh Shetty at 1.51am. Neither calls were returned.
- His body was reportedly taken by his friend, Sandip to Cooper Hospital, which is run by BMC (Brihanmumbai Muncipal Corporation), which incidentally had come under fire recently after an audio recording of the doctors demanding bribe surfaced. Cooper Hospital, was the same hospital where actresses Jiah Khan (who was involved with Sooraj Pancholi), Divya Bharati (wife of Producer Sajjid Nadiawalla) and Parveen Babi (who had a relationship with director Mahesh Bhatt) were taken to after their death. It was later reported that Mahesh Bhatt knew a doctor in Cooper Hospital.
- The final postmortem report by five doctors said it was clear case of suicide, and that there was no struggle or injury marks on his body. Which, however is being proved otherwise by photographic and video images of his body.
- Before his body was taken, a video reveals that his finger was moving, showing a cadaveric spasm (stiffness of the muscles in extreme cases) which was then covered with a cloth by someone.
Subsequently a complaint was filed before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Mukesh Kumar, in Bihar by Kundan Kumar, a resident of Muzaffarpur against Rhea Chakraborthy of abetment in the death of Sushant Singh Rajput. Rhea Chakraborthy, who had starred in Mahesh Bhatt’s ‘Jalebi,’ was in a relationship with Sushant, which had soured a few months back. Rhea was the one Sushant called the night before he died, but there was no response from her.
It was reported that Rhea deleted all the photographs of both of them from Instagram, three days before his death. Her mother said that she had complained to her director and mentor, Mahesh Bhatt that Sushant had stopped taking medicines for depression and was acting weird, that he was hearing voices that were threatening him.
Another fact that came to the fore was that Sushant had started a company with Rhea and her brother Showik called ‘Vividrage Rhealityx Private Limited’ and he was the only one who put money into it. And that this fact was not divulged to the police during Rhea’s nine-hour interrogation. Sushant’s father said that he had stopped taking medicines for depression some months back. Sushant was consulting Psychiatrist Kersi Chavda for depression. Kersi, it is reported, is a good friend of Mahesh Bhatt.
This was followed by both Mahesh and Mukesh Bhatt making statements that Sushant was depressed. In fact, Mahesh Bhatt, went further to say that his case reminded him of actress Parveen Babi, who was suicidal and had died due to depression. Director Shekhar Kapur, who was planning to feature him in ‘Paani’ in partnership with Yash Chopra Films (which never happened), too confessed on twitter that Sushant was undergoing a bad period and he wished he was around to help him.
Subsequently, a case was filed by Sudhir Kumar Ojha in the Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court against six prominent Bollywood makers for abetment to Sushant’s death. Soon, reports came out that his depression could have stemmed from the fact that seven big production houses had banned Sushant from films; Dharma Productions (KaranJohar), YRF Films (Aditya Chopra), Balaji (Ekta Kapoor), Sajid Nadiadwala, SKF Films (SalmanKhanFilms), T Series, and DineshVijan.
Clearly pointing to the fact that these production houses were creating camps or cartels that do not allow enough fair opportunities for the meritorious. In fact, nepotism, where the film industry establishment preferred to promote its own progeny, and their friends and family became the target of attack by people on social media in the coming weeks.
Karan Johar’s casting choices have created the impression that he certainly is the most prominent of the guardians of nepotism. But there are many others like
Ekta Kapoor, Mahesh Bhatt, Aditya Chopra, who formed a part of it. Hence the same actors, children of stars/directors like Alia Bhatt, Arjun Kapoor, Varun Dhawan, Ranbir Kapoor, were given most of the roles. Roles promised to Sushant were taken away and given to these actors. And the same coterie constantly belittled Sushant on stage shows and TV chat shows like “Koffee with Karan” to make him feel insignificant.
A few actors like Nana Patekar, Shekhar Suman paid visits to Sushant’s family in Bihar to give their condolences. Shekhar Suman was vocal about the underworld’s role in Bollywood crimes. It was reported that Sushant had changed his SIM cards 50 times because he was receiving death threats. So who was threatening him and why?
What seems even stranger is that after his death, when his phone was in the custody of the police, his Twitter and Instagram accounts were being tampered by someone, his number of followers were being reduced, he was suddenly following director Mahesh Bhatt. His popular TV serial ‘PavithraRishta’ was removed from YouTube.
One also wonders whether his death was linked with the death of his manager, 28-year-old Disha Salian, just eight days before. Disha was reported to have committed suicide by jumping off a high rise building in Malad, Mumbai. The police registered the case as an accidental death. Nothing more was known regarding this. Sushant’s response was to write to her family to show how upset he was.
The fact remains that Bollywood is seeped in a quagmire of underworld dons and politicians, who control the fate of actors and movie makers. Big, blockbuster movies are made with their help, they even decided who would star in them.
While Demonetization, affected their business to a large extent, and big banner films stopped being produced, crime in this area continued unabated and criminals were given a free chit, as the connections with politicians, corporates, film-makers run rather deep. The deaths of Jia Khan, Divya Bharati, Parveen Babi were examples of this link.
But then the public was aware that Sushant was different through his interviews and public talks. He had aspired to be a pilot, but on his father’s insistence joined engineering. Which he then quit a few months before graduation to enter TV, drama and then films. He excelled in all these areas with his quality of seeping into the characters he played.
His love for quantum physics, astronomy and space technology was often shared with the public. He bought an expensive Meade telescope 14” LX600 to look at the stars from his apartment. He had undergone a month-long training at NASA for a role he was doing as an astronaut in ‘Chanda Mama Door ke’ which never took off. He also bought a piece of land in the region of Mare Moscoviense on the moon. His dream was to travel to the Moon, as an astronaut, in 2024.
He also had a bucket list of 50 things he dreamed of doing and shared with the public, out of which he had ticked 12 of them. A motorcycle aficionado, he bought a BMW motorbike and a Maserati in the same shade of a dinky car that he had as a child. He contributed Rs 1 Crore each towards Kerala and Nagaland flood relief. He never showed the kind of attitude stars usually show, he always obliged ordinary people with selfies, right from balloon sellers to beggars.
Hence the mystery of his death remains more prevalent, as an intelligent, ambitious and humane person does not leave the world without saying a word, or leaving a suicide note. How could a man with vast knowledge in quantum physics and space science, an actor, a seeker and a good human being disappear in this silent manner? Fans and well-wishers are clamouring for a proper CBI investigation, to ensure justice is given to his family and fans as they are losing their faith in the local police. They believe that once the mystery is solved they can give a dignified, final goodbye to the star they loved.
Meena Das Narayan is the Editor-in-Chief of Gulf Connoisseur and has three decades of writing on lifestyle, art and cultural stories. She is also a movie-maker, artist, poet, cartoonist and director of dance operas. This article has been put together with the help of inputs from press and police reports, and various people, who have been following the case closely. I would like to especially thank Nagaraj Pandith who is in 12th standard and Soha Patel, a social worker.