The suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput shows that Covid-19 is taking a devastating toll on mental health
Whatever plans each of us had for the New Year, have all gone for a toss. To say that the dawn of the new decade has been unfortunate would be putting it mildly. 2020 has brought us a global pandemic that has already claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, and marches on unabated; cyclones have caused unfathomable damage and loss of life; and some of India’s finest and loved actors are no longer with us.
The untimely demise of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput has come as a shock for the entire nation, closely following the passing of stalwarts like Irrfan Khan and Rishi Kapoor. Even though I never had the pleasure of meeting Sushant Singh Rajput, his demise feels very personal for some reason.
As an engineering aspirant a few years ago, I was repeatedly told how I could do anything I wanted to after engineering. But Sushant Singh Rajput was the true epitome of this statement, having left his engineering course at the prestigious Delhi Technical University to pursue his passion of acting -- all this despite having secured an all India rank of seven in the entrance exam, and being a national level Olympiad winner in physics.
Looking at him, one genuinely felt that one could actually do anything they set their mind to. An engineering graduate myself, for me Sushant Singh Rajput represented the countless opportunities I could explore, beyond the convention. Perhaps his demise feels so personal because his movies were so real.
He gave new life to the inquisitive, unrelenting, and mischievous new Byomkesh Bakshy, a twinkle in whose eye would tell you that he was on the verge of cracking yet another clue. His portrayal of a lonely and depressed Mahendra Singh Dhoni at a railway station, battling multiple problems and depression that made me reflect on my own problems and inspired me to “duck” the bad times.
And more recently, as the young, jovial Anni from Chhichhore, Sushant Singh Rajput took my friends and me back to our engineering days and the constant, lingering thought of getting into a good college that preceded engineering life. Sushant Singh Rajput was among the few celebrities in Bollywood who reaffirmed the nation’s faith that talent and hard work could land you in Bollywood. And perhaps this is why this loss feels so personal.
To have taken such an extreme step, Sushant Singh Rajput must have endured a lot, and this should serve as a wake-up call for us to take mental health more seriously. Sadly, news of Sushant’s battle with depression comes at a time when Indian tabloids are filled with celebrities talking about mental well-being.
Sushant himself was vocal about mental health and the stigma associated with men speaking about their problems, which is why not just India but the entire world is shocked to see a man who delivered the same messages through his movies and yet took such an extreme step.
We often expect our on-screen heroes to have perfect off-screen lives, unaware of the demons they battle. Sushant Singh Rajput has left behind a legacy despite the limited number of films he did. From a person who actively spoke about mental health, it would do us well to draw a lesson for the future. More than 264 million people in the world suffer from depression, and only a handful of them are celebrities, which is what makes this so real.
The current lockdown and the fight against the coronavirus has been a tough period for all of us and it is time we start accepting mental health as an important indicator of our health. We should come together in these trying times and hope that there isn’t another Sushant Singh Rajput battling his demons alone.
Rishabh Kochhar is a freelance contributor.