The 34-year-old’s suicide sent shockwaves across Bollywood and beyond, sparking calls for mental illness to be taken more seriously.

Popular Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput was found dead in his Mumbai residence on Sunday.

Local media reported the 34-year-old Rajput was found hanging in his apartment in suburban Bandra. Police added there were no suspicious circumstances and believe that he took his own life. An investigation is ongoing.

Rajput was celebrated as a quintessential outsider that made his mark in Bollywood without any industry connections.

Hailing from Patna, Bihar, he had enrolled at Delhi Technological University to study engineering before dropping out to pursue an acting career.

Rajput started on TV, before making his Bollywood debut in Kai Po Che! in 2013, based on a best-selling novel by Chetan Bhagat. He won critical acclaim for his role as cricketing icon Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the 2016 biopic MS Dhoni: The Untold Story.

In a somewhat tragic twist, one of Rajput’s final screen appearances, Chhichhore, saw him play the role of a father who conveyed hope and resilience to his son after he attempted suicide.

He was last seen in the 2019 Netflix film Drive.

Widely cited as an uplifting personality, Rajput’s untimely death sent shockwaves through Bollywood and beyond, as social media flooded with condolences from those reacting to the news in disbelief.

“Sushant Singh Rajput…a bright young actor gone too soon,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.

“He excelled on TV and in films. His rise in the world of entertainment inspired many and he leaves behind several memorable performances. Shocked by his passing away. My thoughts are with his family and fans. Om Shanti.”

Bollywood star Akshay Kumar wrote on Twitter, “Honestly this news has left me shocked and speechless.”

The impact of his death was also felt in the cricketing world.

Centring mental health

Above all else, Rajput’s death stirred up conversations surrounding mental health and the need to take the issue more seriously.

According to initial reports, it was believed that Rajput was battling depression and consulting a psychiatrist for the past six months.

Less than a week before his suicide, Rajput’s former manager, 28-year-old Disha Salian, took her life by jumping from a building on June 9.

The actor mourned Salian’s death and called it “devastating news”.

Rajput’s last post on social media was dedicated to his mother, who passed away in 2002.

“Blurred past evaporating from teardrops. Unending dreams carving an arc of smile and a fleeting life negotiating between the two,” read the Instagram post shared on June 3 along with a picture of his mother.

Prominent director Karan Johar blamed himself for not being in touch with Rajput for the past year.

“I have felt at times like you may have needed people to share your life with but somehow I never followed up on that feeling…Will never make that mistake again.”

Johar called the actor’s death a “huge wake-up call” for him.

Actor Deepika Padukone, who has publicly talked of battling mental illness, said it was important to reach out.

“Talk. Communicate. Express. Seek help,” she wrote on Instagram. “Remember, you are not alone. We are in this together. And most importantly, there is hope.”

Anushka Sharma, who co-starred with Rajput in the film PK wrote, “I’m so sad and upset knowing that we lived in an environment that could not help you through any troubles you may have had.”

Others brought up how difficult it is to discuss mental health issues in India, due to societal taboos and stigmatisation surrounding the topic.

Actor Bipasha Basu chimed in, saying that mental health is something that “needs to be taken seriously in the country”.

“The conversation about mental health in India is miles from where it should be. Many people mourning Sushant’s death today snigger and gossip when someone known to them sees a shrink,” tweeted Rahul Sabharwal, city editor of The Indian Express.

Some diagnosed it in structural terms, where root causes and solutions go beyond just the individual and clinical spheres.

Another pointed out how the resources for treating mental health aren’t accessible to most in the country.

Meanwhile, Comedian Vir Das called out the opportunism of the media on the subject.

For Das, Rajput’s legacy, ephemeral as it was, would remain an inspiration.

“Sushant Singh Rajput was a complete outsider who made it from background dancer to a movie star through hard work and talent. That’s an amazing and unique story. Take a moment to remember that above everything. For outsiders, actors struggling, for anyone. That’s a legacy."

Rajput’s funeral will be held today.

Source: TRT World