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Anger Against Bollywood Boils Over in Britain, SSR Fans Threaten to Take Protests from Streets to Seats

In this photograph taken on July 29, 2017, Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput attends the BIG ZEE Entertainment Awards 2017 ceremony in Mumbai. (Photo by STR / AFP)

In this photograph taken on July 29, 2017, Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput attends the BIG ZEE Entertainment Awards 2017 ceremony in Mumbai. (Photo by STR / AFP)

Grief over Sushant Singh Rajput's passing has long since given way to anger against Bollywood among fans in Britain. That anger is now sowing a determination to deny Bollywood its market, just as Bollywood is seen to have denied the rising star a role and, eventually, his life itself.

Word of arrest of Showik Chakraborty and others seen as hostile to the late star Sushant Singh Rajput brought some limited celebrations among a plethora of SSR fan groups in Britain. The fan following of SSR has grown massively since his death, through an admiration for him that has now turned into anger over him. Bollywood has claimed distant shores as its own; the anger is now flowing from those distances to bite Bollywood.

Fans in Britain have stepped up their campaigning seeking “justice for Sushant”, as have SSR fans around the world. Word that Showik was due to be arrested on Friday night, and that his sister and Rajput’s rumoured girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty might be also taken into custody brought some vindication that these are the “villains” whose ways led to SSR’s death in some manner, even if the present moves were confined to the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) investigation into possession and sharing of banned drugs.

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SSR fan fury is rising by the day in Britain. Demonstrations are being planned outside multiplexes for September 14 when fans across the world are joining hands online, and through similar protests. “We are planning to demonstrate outside a leading multiplex on that date to join those protesting around the world,” Rashmi Mishra from the group Inspiring Indian Women tells CNN-News18. “We want to give those people in Bollywood a message that they cannot think of themselves as gods. They must not forget that it is we who made them.”

The silent but clear message is that ‘we the fans’ can also unmake them. Hardly has a fictional series grabbed as much attention as have the developments in the investigation that followed Sushant Singh Rajput’s death by suicide on June 14. Not many of his fans are ready to believe it was suicide; in any case they believe that even if it was, it was Bollywood that pushed him over the edge.

How far the fans boycott Bollywood cinema and a perceived set of film-makers and stars may only become clearer next year. The Covid-19 pandemic has arrested attendance at cinemas currently, and public memory can be notoriously short.

“If justice is done, people will forget,” says Roopa Dewan, who will lead a protest outside a cinema hall in London on September 14. “We want to end nepotism. The mafia needs to go.”

Fans from Britain and around the world, she says, have come together to click the dislike button on YouTube for films from producers and stars they have come to dislike following SSR’s death. “They are getting the message that people are not watching those films now.”

Grief over the rising star’s passing has long since given way to anger against Bollywood. That anger is now sowing a determination to deny Bollywood its market, just as Bollywood is seen to have denied Sushant Singh Rajput a role and eventually his life itself.

Fans hired a truck last week to do the rounds of London carrying pictures of SSR. His sister Shweta Singh Kirti tweeted her thanks for that effort. She is now leading the campaign for the September 14 protests.

“We are relying on the CBI to give us the truth,” says Roopa Dewan. “In the past, so often the CBI has been silenced. This time we want the whole truth to come out. You can see what is happening. What began as messages within groups has become a movement now.”

The new round of protests follows on from Shweta Singh Kirti’s earlier call for global prayers and an active Twitter gathering of SSR fans against some of Bollywood’s most-established.

The fan fury would seem inevitable, given the huge and rising success of Bollywood movies in Britain for long now. A number of halls at multiplexes all over Britain screen Bollywood films, and the overseas market has become a juicy distribution territory. Which is why the new campaign by fan groups should worry Bollywood producers and distributors.

On Friday, the Producers’ Guild of India issued a statement that the “tragic death of a promising young star” is being used as a “tool to defame and slander the film industry and its members”. That statement only came as confirmation to SSR fan groups that their campaign is hitting Bollywood as intended.

What worries Bollywood, and should, is the next threatened step to taking the protest from streets to seats. Nothing could hurt Bollywood more than more vacant seats in cinema halls.