Sushant Singh Rajput, who got off to a successful career in Bollywood without any godfather, was found dead at his Bandra residence in Mumbai on Sunday. As soon as the news of his demise broke, several big names in the film fraternity took to social media to pay tributes to the late actor. Some expressed deep shock, while others apologised for not being around when he needed them.
However, there were a few who shed light on the incessant struggle that an outsider has to endure despite proving them over and over again in Bollywood.
Filmmaker Hansal Mehta shared a series of tweets in which he asked the young outsiders to beware of "an establishment" in Bollywood that would "make you feel like the next big thing until they need you."
"They will drop you and mock you as soon as you falter. Do not fall for the trap," added Hansal.
There are many young 'outsiders' in this industry. Remember this - there is an establishment that will make you feel like the next big thing until they need you. They will drop you and mock you as soon as you falter. Do not fall for the trap. The ones that celebrate you...
— Hansal Mehta (@mehtahansal) June 15, 2020
Calling out the hypocrisy of Bollywood, actor-turned-producer Nikhil Dwivedi, without mincing his words, tweeted, "At times our movie industry's hypocrisy gets to me. High & mighty announcing they should have kept in touch with Sushant. Oh c'mon, you didn't! And that's because his career dipped."
At times our movie industry's hypocrisy gets to me. High &mighty announcing they shud ve kept in touch wth Sushant..
Cmon u didn't! &thts coz his career dipped. So STFU! R u in touch with Imran Khan, Abhay Deol &others? No!
But u were, whn they were doing well#SushantSinghRajput
— Nikhil Dwivedi (@Nikhil_Dwivedi) June 14, 2020
Director Shekhar Kapur, who was planning to make one of his most ambitious films Paani with Sushant, hinted that the late actor was let down by many in the industry.
"I knew the pain you were going through. I knew the story of the people that let you down so bad that you would weep on my shoulder. I wish I was around the last 6 months. I wish you had reached out to me. What happened to you was their Karma. Not yours," he tweeted.
I knew the pain you were going through. I knew the story of the people that let you down so bad that you would weep on my shoulder. I wish Iwas around the last 6 months. I wish you had reached out to me. What happened to you was their Karma. Not yours. #SushantSinghRajput
— Shekhar Kapur (@shekharkapur) June 15, 2020
Paani got shelved in 2015 after Yash Raj Films suddenly backed out as the producers. Soon, the reports about an alleged fallout between Sushant and YRF followed. However, it didn't affect Sushant's career as much as the industry sources thought it would as he delivered his first-ever 100-crore film in MS Dhoni: The Untold Story. During an interview with DNA at the time, Sushant had spoken out about how the industry didn't acknowledge and celebrate his success like it would do of other "insiders." "I think all this is also nepotism. Anybody who says it isn’t is either very ignorant or very powerful," he had said. Meanwhile, filmmaker Anubhav Sinha also appeared to take a dig at the "privileged" Bollywood lot as he tweeted, "The Bollywood Privilege Club must sit down and think hard tonight."
The Bollywood Privilege Club must sit down and think hard tonight.
PS- Now don't ask me to elaborate any further.
— Anubhav Sinha (@anubhavsinha) June 14, 2020
The talks revolving around privilege have raged over the last couple of years with many outsiders opening up about the discrimination they have faced in Bollywood for not having a famous surname.
Actress Taapsee Pannu, who has successfully managed to carve a niche for herself, has spoken out, in multiple interviews, that she was replaced in a number of films because she had no godfather or connections in the film industry.
"I used the same hand to pat my back and to pick me up when I get shattered after losing out on a film due to reasons except your credibility to that role. It is not a shocker to me that a film went out of my hands, not because I was not credible, but because I was not so-and-so's daughter or sister or dating so-and-so," Taapsee told PTI.
In another interview, Taapsee admitted that it was such incidents that still make her feel like an outsider in Bollywood.
“I don’t have any Godfather, who would guarantee me work in this industry. So, regardless of how many hits or flops I give at the box office, I would continue to be an outsider. I still get replaced on someone’s recommendations and until this stops happening, this ‘outsider’ feeling isn’t going to go anywhere," Taapsee told Asian Age.
Actor Rajkummar Rao, who became the face of Bollywood's ultimate outsider, had also expressed his displeasure at "non-talented" actors getting a chance in films.
“Favouritism is there of course, it is present everywhere, so it is fine. But my only concern is when because of favouritism I have to see non-talented people in films. That is a problem for me," he had told Hindustan Times.
During her TEDx talk in 2016, actress Richa Chadha had also touched upon how a Bollywood bloodline comes with countless advantages.
"It's not a level playing field. While I had to diligently finish my education, then move to Bombay and start the audition process. Whereas someone born into the industry, starts getting groomed in their puberty, trained in their late teens and finally launched in a tailor-made author-backed film, while the rest of us are still finding our bearings and learning the hard way.
"The industry provides an intense inner-circle-support system to their kith and kin. They recognise which angles work best for the camera, have gleaming teeth all while the perfect hairstyle is decided upon by the powers that be, through years of trial and error," Richa had said.
Actor Ayushmann Khurrana, who came into the limelight through his various acts on TV before turning to the silver screen with his impressive acting debut in Vicky Donor, had said that he was once rejected by filmmaker Karan Johar’s banner Dharma Productions during his initial phase in the industry.
Recalling the incident, Ayushmann told screenwriter and lyricist Niranjan Iyengar on his talk show, "I started off with hosting radio shows and red carpet events for award functions. During one such red carpet event, I spotted Karan Johar and directly asked him about giving me an opportunity in his next movie. Karan, who might be getting this often from people, gave me a landline number and asked me to call. I called on the number the next day and the person on the other side said that they only entertain stars."
Notably, it has been four years since Kangana Ranaut showed courage to speak out against the practice of nepotism in Bollywood, calling Karan the "the flag bearer of nepotism" on his own chat show. Over the years, her words have only found greater significance amongst many outsiders even as her infamous episode with the Dharma productions head allowed a lot of new actors, who hail from outside the industry, to talk about their experiences on the ground.