The tragic passing of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput has left countless people around the world with heavy hearts and unanswered questions. Like many cine-goers, I loved his performances in “M.S Dhoni” and “Chhichhore.” He was brimming with talent, charisma and thoughtful intelligence. Onscreen he exuded a sensitivity that I think only comes from being a truly kind person.
Despite being his fan, I never realized how difficult his journey as an actor in the Indian film industry had been without any insider connections. His was an increasingly rare Cinderella story of a regular person who had become a superstar.
Since his passing, many actors and filmmakers have spoken out about the barriers Sushant faced as an “outsider”. Acclaimed director Anubhav Sinha, in a tweet, called out the “Bollywood privilege club…[to] sit down and think hard tonight”.
Legendary director Shekhar Kapur tweeted about the people who “let [Sushant] down” stating that “what happened to [Sushant] was their karma”.
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
Sushant was set to star in Shekhar Kapur’s much anticipated film on the world water crisis, “Paani” which was in pre-production in 2015 until the film was shelved by Yash Raj Films.
Sushant’s co-actor Ranvir Shorey tweeted after his death on the “gatekeepers of Bollywood” who are the ones with “the power to decide who will be a “star”…[and who are the ones] having inherited privilege in the business and the mainstream media sitting in their lap”.
One of the most heartbreaking comments by Sushant himself speaking to a fan on Instagram in March 2019:
“I have no Godfather, I have made you (all) my Gods and fathers. Watch [my film] at least if you do wish I survive in Bollywood.”
Unfortunately, without more information from industry officials, all we can do is speculate on if and/or how these circumstances that contributed to Sushant’s pain. Needless to say, there was a lot going on below the surface that the public needs answers to.
Tragically, Sushant Singh Rajput was not the first person to experience this level of trauma and nor do I fear will he be the last. Even comedy legend Govinda has discussed his inability to release movies in recent years as there are “few people, they are behind not providing [him] a place to act”. Govinda has gone on to state that his films are not being given a platform to be released.
While the investigation into the passing of Sushant Singh Rajput is ongoing, one wish I have for all lovers of Indian cinema is that we consciously make an effort to support films with new, independent talent. This is what Sushant alluded to in an interview where he stated,
“If you deliberately don’t allow the right talent to come up, then there is a problem. Then the whole structure of the industry would collapse one day.”
It is our responsibility as cine-goers to support the next generation of rising stars who have come in on their own merit. They must know that the most vital part of the film industry – the viewing public – is there to support their journey. I will be doing this personally, by watching more of their films, and on my blog by purposefully highlighting wonderful films with less well-known directors, producers and actors that may not otherwise reach the homes and hearts of viewers. I urge you all to do the same.
Sending lots of love to the family, friends and fans of Sushant. May he find peace and know that he will always be loved.
March 20, 2023March 21, 2023 4min readBy Nida Hasan
If you are a South Asian, born in the ’80s or the early ’90s, chances are your ideas of love and romance are heavily influenced by Hindi films — that first gaze, the secret love notes, that accidental meeting somewhere in Europe, over-the-top gestures and dancing around trees. While reality may have been far from what was promised on reel, you still can’t stop pining over a hopeless romantic, with chocolate boy looks, chasing you across the earth and many universes; in the life here and the ones after. Somewhere deep down, you still dream of that possibility despite your husband sitting and sipping his morning coffee right next to you. And much of the credit for weaving this dreamland, that we can’t resist happily sliding into, goes to the legendary Yash Chopra. Award-winning filmmaker Smriti Mundhra’s docu-series, “The Romantics,” that released on Netflix on February 14, chronicles Chopra’s prolific career; offering an illuminating look into the highs and lows of his journey, his unblemished vision for Hindi cinema and sheer love for filmmaking.
I wanted to look at Indian cinema through the lens of it being a major contributor to the global cinema canon and Yash Chopra seemed like the perfect lens to explore that because of the longevity of his career and the fact that he had worked across so many different genres. His films, for so many of us, defined what Hindi cinema is.
— Smriti Mundhra
As “The Romantics” unveils, in a mere episode — a challenging feat in itself — Chopra did experiment with multiple genres as a budding filmmaker, initially under the shadows of his elder brother B.R. Chopra. From the religiously sensitive “Dharamputra” and the trendsetting “Waqt” to the action-packed and iconic “Deewaar.” It wasn’t until later on in his career that he set a precedent for a Hindi film having a wholly romantic narrative; though “Waqt” did offer the perfect glimpse into what would go on to become Chopra’s cinematic imprint. And then came “Chandni” which ushered in a new era for Hindi cinema; defying the formulaic approach to box office success and making love stories the golden goose.
In the words of more than 30 famous faces, a host of archival videos and interviews, and personal anecdotes, audiences get an extensive insight into the life and career of Yash Chopra and the evolution of his vision through the business acumen and genius of his polar opposite son and a famous recluse, Aditya Chopra. “The Romantics” is not a fancy portrait of a legendary filmmaker but an exploration of what goes into making a successful film family and a path-breaking production house. As viewers, we not only get a peek into the making of a fantasy creator but also learn of the many failures, hurdles and uncertainties that the business of filmmaking comes packaged in, the impact of socio-political shifts on the kind of content being produced and demanded, and just how much control we have as an audience over the fate of the film and the filmmaker.
For both the uninitiated and fanatics, there are some interesting revelations like Shah Rukh Khan’s lifelong desire to become an action hero as opposed to a romantic one and the creative conflict between Aditya Chopra and his father Yash Chopra on the sets of “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge” — a project that, surprisingly, did not seem too promising to the latter. Mundhra penetrates deep into the family’s history and industry relationships evoking some really candid conversations; almost as if these celebs were eagerly waiting for their moment to speak. With one appraising interview after the other, it’s a panegyric that does border on being a tad tedious but there is enough depth and fodder in there to keep one hooked. Kudos to Mundhra for managing to achieve cohesion despite there being more than enough material to chew on. In the process of bringing this project to life, Mundhra also ends up achieving a number of milestones: one that the series features the last of actor Rishi Kapoor’s interviews and two, it brings Aditya Chopra, who, it appears, can talk a blue streak contrary to popular belief, to the front of the camera after almost two decades. The moment when he puts the nepotism debate to rest by referring to his brother’s catastrophic attempt at acting is quite the show-stealer.
At some point during the four-episode series, you might question if it’s fair to credit the Yash Raj family for being the only real changemakers of the Hindi film industry and for picking up the baton to get Hindi cinema the global recognition that it has. But then there is no denying the Chopra clan’s body of work, their ability to understand what pleases the crowd and their commitment towards growth and progress amidst changing times and technology — Yash Raj Studios is in fact the only privately held and one of the biggest, state-of-the-art film studios in India. Chopra’s career and legacy are in no way under-lit that Mundhra can claim to throw new light on with “The Romantics.” But what she really has on offer here are sheer nostalgia, some fascinating discoveries and an ode to a cinephile and his art with a bit of fan service.
In an interview with Brown Girl Magazine, Mundhra discusses why it was so important for Chopra to be the subject of her docu-series, her own learnings during the series’ research and creative process and her accomplishment of getting Aditya Chopra to talk, and that too, at length.