The Byomkesh Bakshi in all of us

This is not about a film star’s death; it is about us coming of age. We have woken up to the happenings around us; no more sweeping doubts under the carpet. Sushant Singh Rajput is not just a beloved late actor. He stands for the common man’s dissatisfaction with his country.

August 29, 2020 / 12:36 PM IST

Actor Sushant Singh Rajput is dead, there is little doubt about that. But was he killed or did he self-kill – that is the question travelling faster than the latest virus throughout our land. A whodunit constantly turning its own pages, it is a bestseller written by us and read by us.

Every citizen is an amateur detective in the wake of this case. Fingers are a blur as they are pointing here, there, everywhere. The almost neurotic urgency to know the identity of the villain, to pin the blame on someone, anyone, renders the actor’s fans hysterical. A cottage industry has quickly spun around this like sickly-sweet cotton candy; for and against, accusing and defending, lies and truths, science and superstition… The social media has exploded with photos, texts, theories and counter-theories, all supporting this today and that tomorrow.

Into this highly hotchpotch investigation conducted personally by every Tom, Dick and Harry, fall all kinds of passing suspicions. It is one of those rare times that all the hair on Bharat Mata’s head is oiled into one tight plait: politics, film industry, drug dons, underworld mafia, media, medical officials, police, séances, friendships, family and romance. This is emotional prime time.

If it is sugar daddies and nepotism at one end, it is money-laundering and swapped stretchers at the other end. On the one hand are friends who partied with him the previous night, on the other hand is a colleague’s death a week earlier. Rumours and eye-witness accounts take each other’s place.

We are ready to lose our shit over the smallest thing. Why did his girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty say ‘I am sorry, Babu’ at the morgue? This has sparked a shrill debate, with academicians and minor Bollywood personalities weighing in with furious expressions. A disproportionate anger courses through us, never mind how human it is to mumble apologetically to corpses.

Close

Is it this particular incident or is it us? There have been huge crimes before, but we waited patiently then for the truth to come to us. Of course, we had opinions; the victim’s mother does not look sad, we said, and how can someone have sex after killing an ex, we exclaimed. But by and large, we were muttering this to the TV or a sleeping spouse.

But everything changed with this one death. Blame it on the virus – we suddenly have a lot of spare time. Or pin it on our awakening at last to systemic and social injustices meted out to us as a people over a long, long period of time. If the CBI was to conduct a psychological autopsy on all of us right now, they would find our failures and frustrations, our insecurity over the future and a lack of trust in authorities.

This is not about a film star’s death; it is about us coming of age. We have woken up to the happenings around us; no more sweeping doubts under the carpet. Sushant Singh Rajput is not just a beloved late actor. He stands for the common man’s dissatisfaction with his country.

Shinie Antony is a writer and editor based in Bangalore. Her books include The Girl Who Couldn't Love, Barefoot and Pregnant, Planet Polygamous, and the anthologies Why We Don’t Talk, An Unsuitable Woman, Boo. Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Asia Prize for her story A Dog’s Death in 2003, she is the co-founder of the Bangalore Literature Festival and director of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival.
Shinie Antony
first published: Aug 29, 2020 07:35 am

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