Sushant Singh Rajput and the film industry

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By Harish Sharma

MUMBAI: Sushant Singh Rajput was not a part of my book initially, because we never worked in close proximity. However, I’m writing on the workings of the film industry and thus, let me take you on that journey through Sushant. Had he knew after he passed away, there would be so much uproar in the country, errrr, on social media; he may have not done what he did.

I’ve had a relationship with Bollywood for the last 25-odd years. I’ve worked with the industry for long, and I’ve been a keen observer for the last five years. I hadn’t expected so many people from within the industry to come out with their love for Sushant, let alone the masses.

A young, successful and good actor leaving us suddenly would have its ramifications. I was affected as well. I had never worked with him, but I have seen his movies and I thought he had potential. I thought that he’d become a star from the current crop.

I was disturbed when I got to know that dejected people from within the industry started firing bullets from Sushant’s shoulders. I kept on reading, and tried hard to understand why he took his own life.

I tried a lot, but couldn’t get to a meaningful or sensible conclusion. I don’t get the inside news of the industry anymore as I’ve shifted to Goa and I’m mostly writing books. I’m old-school in my habits as well, and thus, I still love my morning cup of coffee with a newspaper. I’m still not hooked up to the digital news a lot.

Even then, I opened the Mumbai Mid-day online and tried to understand Sushant’s dilemma and desperation. I understood it to a certain extent. According to me, it was so deep and exhaustive that it led to the tragic situation.

The kind of films Sushant wanted to work in, was never going to be made. His career proved he wanted to do films of different genres and on various subjects. That’s exactly why he fell in the trap of several film directors.

I know that Sushant was relatively low on experience in the film industry. I don’t know much about the people who were around him, but they were not able people. The biggest issue in the film industry is ‘Yes Men’ and ‘Yes Women’. These people never tell stars about real problems, and what is right and wrong. They feel that by agreeing, they’re safeguarding their jobs.

I feel if the people around him had suggested him right, we could’ve saved him. Let’s take a look at the films he was doing.

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The first movie ‘Chanda Mama Door Ke’, was directed by Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan, He has been in the news for the last 10 years, his PR always manages to pull big headlines whenever there is an update.

I would throw some light on the same. A science fiction film by Sanjay Gandhi, then a film explores relations between India and Pakistan. Pakistani actress Mahreen Sayeed was signed for the movie. Actors from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh would work on this project and then Special Effects Director John Palmer was brought on board for a science fiction film.

I got all this information from NDTV’s entertainment show. While writing this, it took me just 10 minutes to get all this information. Did Sushant and his team not perform R&D on the project before signing the dotted line?

He should’ve understood this was a film that wasn’t going to be made. I don’t know the dreams Sanjay showed to Sushant, but he wasn’t taken care of well by his team.

I was away from the industry for the last five years and thus, I missed the developments around the project Chanda Mama dur ke. Had I known, I would’ve surely posted something on the social media.

I’ve no doubts on the qualities of Sanjay as a director. His movie, Lahore, won several awards and there’s no doubt that it was a brilliantly-made movie. Post that, he has been all about announcements and PR and just that.

He should’ve made his next film with the producer of ‘Lahore’. The project was successful. I would like to suggest to Sanjay that good directors like Anurag Kashyap and Tigmanshu Dhulia pull off great cinema with shoestring budgets.

If you can’t make a movie in 10 years after your first film was a success, there’s something wrong with you. Please don’t blame the ‘Mumbai Gang’ for halting your journey.

Sanjay, too, is responsible for breaking Sushant’s dreams. It would be a true tribute if he could make a movie like ‘Lahore’ again and dedicate it to the late actor.

The next name would be Shekhar Kapur. If someone has done the most damage, it’s this man. When he was tweeting one after another on Sushant, I thought of him to be a ‘friend’. But the way he kept Sushant embroiled in his net is brilliant and talks massively about his ability as an individual.

‘Paani’, a movie that has been shelved for 20 years now, was another dream that Sushant saw. If Kapur had made the movie, Sushant’s dream could’ve been saved. If I remember correctly, Shekhar Kapur had wanted to make ‘Paani’ with a then-young Preity Zinta. A lot of water has flown under the bridge since then. I was reading somewhere that he is planning to show the condition of water in 2025-40.

When I was in Pithoragarh in 1987-88, I had read an article written by Rajendra Singh on Water. He had written in the full-page article that in 32 years, India would have no water and we would no longer live. Even then, I used to think that we would do nothing for water? Would water have to replenish itself?

It’s been 32 years – and nothing much has changed. Yes, the water levels have gone down rapidly in the last few years and we’re on the verge of a collapse, but I still feel nature has kept us sustained and balanced and a little effort can help it back.

If ‘Paani’ was being made for 20 years now, Sushant and his team should’ve thought about the delay. Shekhar has certainly made three brilliant films, but you can’t stop a budding career for two years on the promise of a movie that was ‘being made’ for 20-odd years. He says after wasting his two years, “Sushant kept his head on my shoulder and wept. I know his pain.”

You took his dates for two years and the result was zero. If one or several producers pulled out of your project, the responsibility lies on you and your script, and not in Sushant or Preity. Can you imagine the punishment for wasting two years of a special talent and breaking his dreams?

You’re playing a smart game on Twitter, so no one blames you. Shekhar announced that he informed Sushant producers said they won’t do ‘Paani’ with the actor. That had broken him down and he had cried with Shekhar. Shekhar also said he wanted to make another film with Sushant but he couldn’t. This made Sushant upset and he had gone abroad.

This means that Shekhar promised Sushant without having a producer on board and wanted to cash in on the actor’s ability and success. He should’ve first got a producer on board, consulted him and then promised an actor. It was Shekhar’s fault and not Sushant’s.

Make ‘Paani’ now. You’ve a producer ready; choose a different ‘big’ actor and complete your dream project and dedicate it to Sushant.

I’m not sure but I read this somewhere that Sushant denied a Sanjay Leela Bhansali movie because he had promised you his dates. If that is true, I wonder how you can even sleep at night! Bhansali’s movie would have been a massive project; but it never happened because of your promise. It must’ve taken anywhere around 5 projects out of his hand.

I request you to stop shedding crocodile tears and think on how you intend to pay back to Sushant.

Before we move on the next project, I would like to tell you about the seven films that Sushant lost and that made him worried. I spent many hours on the internet and YouTube, but can’t find the names. If anyone knows about these 7 names, please reach out to me. I’ve no inkling who developed this theory, but it enraged Sushant’s fans a lot.

Moving on to ‘Rifleman’, the movie was being produced by Abudantia Entertainment, but the film is currently shelved due to issues with the story. Anand Gandhi received huge acclaim for his first film ‘Ship of Thesus’ that was released in 2013. He told the media he was meeting Sushant for the last two three months and they were discussing a story. He also said Sushant had liked the story, based on the Emergency 1975.

Anand is saying a lot of things, but let’s be honest; we still have to google him to know more about him. He’s not even properly famous. After the success in 2013, he has never directed a feature film. You’ve been doing this and that all this while, but where’s the end product? Where’s your producer? Which American company is putting money on you?

You came into limelight by making a good movie in 2013. Now to prove yourself, you should’ve directed another in the next seven years! You can produce it yourself. Who’s your actor? Who’s producing it if you’re not?

Sushant was making a 12-part series with his friend and partner Varun Mathur but there was no surety on that project either. If reports are to be believed, there is no confirmation of the project that was encapsulating journeys of Chanakya to APJ Abdul Kalam.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali has said, or it was reported, that he had offered Sushant four films. Even if he had offered him one, it would have been bigger than all these films that Sushant wasted his dates and time on. It would’ve been made, would have been released and had better chances of becoming a hit.

One thing is certain – no one in the industry can stop people betting on the winning horse, and Sushant was one such horse. After 3-4 hits, actors in our industry cement their places for at least 10 years. He had no dearth of offers, but it was on him to pick and choose. He had to decide whether he would enjoy the success or would self-implode due to the defeats.

I’ve been reading that a few successful people have ruined Sushant’s career. Claims like these make me laugh. Everyone in the industry is trying to save their own career and no one has enough time to disrupt someone else’s. If you think sensibly, is there any comparison between Salman, Shahrukh and Sushant? And if you look at it closely, Sushant wasn’t really a threat to even Ranveer.

Favouritism and nepotism – two heavy words – have been doing the rounds lately. To explain these, let me add two more words – comfortable and behavior – to explain them better.

Favouritism, nepotism and comfortability are deeply interlinked. For example, Karan Johar made ‘Student of the Year’ with Siddhart Malhotra, Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt. The movie was a success, but had its chances of failure. Karan played a roll of dice and won when there was an equal, or maybe more, chance of losing.

Which category would you keep Karan in in perspective with these three actors? Let’s keep him in both favouritism and nepotism. If he makes a film with these actors after Student of the Year, he would be comfortable with them, and their behaviour towards Karan who would be full of reverence, because the director made them what they are today.

If any producer understands that he would make millions by putting money on Alia or Sushant, nothing could stop them from doing it. Sushant had reached that bracket. There’s space for everyone in the industry. How you keep yourself afloat with sensibility, tact and a bit of luck depends on you.

It doesn’t take the insiders a lot of time to push you out if you are not successful. Everyone needs to fight their own battles. You can blame someone else for your failures, but everyone knows the truth within themselves.

Sushant would have stayed in the industry comfortably for the next 10 years without any major hiccups. However, in the last 2-3 years, he signed several films which did not see the light of day. These were projects that were different from the regular humdrum, and had they been completed, Sushant’s dreams would’ve come true. He wanted to pitch himself as one different from the league, but when these films weren’t made, he got understandably worried.

Sushant may have denied Bhansali and two-three other big producers due to these movies. When such big names are denied, it takes a toll on their ego more often than not. Corporate houses, too, have their respect quotient high and a blot on it is not very kind.

This pushes film producers away from actors and they stop approaching such actors, thinking they already have projects in their hand, or on the baggage of the previous denial.

Even if Sushant’s films weren’t being made, he shouldn’t have worried. He should’ve asked his PR team to get 3-4 interviews in leading newspapers (which would’ve been easy given his stature) and said that his dates were free and his signed movies had been postponed. At the level he was, he would surely have received offers.

He was successful, but big banners wouldn’t have paid him according to his wish. He was probably in a big banner-less money, small banner-more money conundrum. Had he worked for 1-2 films under big banners and made them hits, he could’ve jumped into the league where he could command his fees.

can’t agree that Sushant did not have films or a financial issue. I recently read that he had an offer worth Rs. 14 crore for a web series. The films that weren’t made wasted his time, but not his talent or position. However, he must’ve been sad that those films weren’t completed.

What then, could be a reason for taking such a big step? Was heartbreak a reason? I don’t think he was so weak. I don’t think he was into drugs – he was far too bright to take such a step. There was no suicide note.

Maybe something comes out during the investigation. His mobile and computer or laptop or other such devices could have a note, or an uncompleted draft.

A lot of people including me leave their pending work, thoughts, fantasies and what not written in drafts. If nothing is found there, it would be difficult to find a reason for Sushant’s suicide ever. Even more difficult would be finding a plausible and concrete reason.

I read that a lawyer had filed a case of abetment of suicide against seven directors, producers and actors. I feel, the government should ban filing of such cases until a matter is under investigation.

Some people might think that I’m supporting the people who are being protested against by everyone. But I’ve never met Karan Johar or Sanjay Leela Bhansali and it’s been nearly 10-15 years that I met Shahrukh or Salman.

They might not even recognize me if I come in front of them. I’m writing only what my experiences in the industry have taught me over the last 25 years.

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