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.”
He loved me so much...I will miss him so much. His energy, enthusiasm and his full happy smile. May Allah bless his soul and my condolences to his near and dear ones. This is extremely sad....and so shocking!! pic.twitter.com/skIhYEQxeO— Shah Rukh Khan (@iamsrk) June 14, 2020
What an Incredible Loss, an Incredible Mind & an Incredible Talent 💔Will miss seeing stars from the telescope on ur terrace, our Astrophysics &NASA conversations,Dance competitions,Cricket celebrations &Ghazal nights. I’m gonna MISS U SOO MUCH 💔 LOVE YOU #RIP #gonetoosoon 💔💔 pic.twitter.com/URLwcnBtM1— Preity G Zinta (@realpreityzinta) June 14, 2020
The impact of his death was also felt in the cricketing world.
Shocked and sad to hear about the loss of Sushant Singh Rajput.— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) June 14, 2020
Such a young and talented actor. My condolences to his family and friends. May his soul RIP. 🙏 pic.twitter.com/B5zzfE71u9
Shocked to hear about Sushant Singh Rajput. This is so difficult to process. May his soul RIP and may god give all the strength to his family and friends 🙏— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) June 14, 2020
RIP, this is beyond sad. High time our cultures should emphasise on mental health and well being. #SushantSinghRajput— Shan Masood (@shani_official) June 14, 2020
“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it's not the answer” Jim Carrey https://t.co/cbWoX7z2xn
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.
View this post on Instagram
I blame myself for not being in touch with you 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...we live in very energetic and noisy but still very isolated times ...some of us succumb to these silences and go within...we need to not just make relationships but also constantly nurture them....Sushants unfortunate demise has been a huge wake up call to me ...to my level of compassion and to my ability to foster and protect my equations.....I hope this resonates with all of you as well....will miss your infectious smile and your bear hug ....💔💔💔
“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.”
Mental health is a very serious issue and needs more attention than it gets. Being sensitive, compassionate ,gentle and consistently reaching out to those struggling is very important.— VVS Laxman (@VVSLaxman281) June 14, 2020
My heartfelt condolences to #SushantSinghRajput ‘s family pic.twitter.com/RfGMzcvrc8
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”.
Mental health is something that needs to be taken seriously in our country. The Society and families need to understand when one needs help and how to help them.Meditation should be taught as a compulsory subject to kids right from the age we start teaching them.— Bipasha Basu (@bipsluvurself) June 14, 2020
“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.
#SushantSinghRajput not alone!— Ashok Swain (@ashoswai) June 14, 2020
Nearly 150 million Indians suffer from mental health issues & only 30 million are getting medical support. India's contribution to global suicide deaths has increased from 25·3% in 1990 to 36·6% in 2016 among women, & from 18·7% to 24·3% among men.
Some diagnosed it in structural terms, where root causes and solutions go beyond just the individual and clinical spheres.
All the talk about mental health in india is so neoliberal, elite. Do not individualise the issue.Oppressive structures, poor working conditions, disconnected relations in a hyperconnected world, increasing debt, patriarchal abuse: underlying, systemic brokeness causes a crisis.— Prerna Subramanian (@prayernaaah) June 14, 2020
Another pointed out how the resources for treating mental health aren’t accessible to most in the country.
Affordability is something we need to address!— Hidden-Pockets (@Hidden_Pockets) June 15, 2020
Save our Whatsapp number 8861713567 and connect with us if you are having negative thoughts.
We can also refer you to an affordable counselor in your preferred city! #MentalHealthMatters https://t.co/fP1KDKCZCz
Meanwhile, Comedian Vir Das called out the opportunism of the media on the subject.
It is hugely ironic to see journalists and media houses who relish, enjoy, and milk the failure of every project now write articles about mental health and positivity.— Vir Das (@thevirdas) June 15, 2020
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.