Just until a few weeks ago, images of the horrors of the nation-wide lockdown were everywhere. Rural migrants working in cities had come out on the streets in such large numbers that the media was forced to turn its camera towards them. The discussion everywhere revolved around how the lockdown had created more decay in an already decaying economy, or that the decaying state of the economy was caused by the lockdown itself. Questions were being raised against the government about the state of the economy and the lockdown. The amount of anger simmering amongst the youth can be understood from the Tali-Thali protests on September 5. People everywhere were worried about what will happen now, the uncertainty of the future making everyone afraid.
Before March 2020, when people got bored with their daily routines and work and wanted to escape the monotony and forget the worries of their life, they would watch a serial or a film. While watching a film, and for some time before and after watching it, one escapes all their worries and loses themselves in the glittering world, the costumes and makeup, of the film.
But now the cinemas are closed and no matter how much they yell China-Pakistan on TV, the effects of the falling economy cannot be ignored.
At this time, the Sushant-Rhea case has been presented in front of the people in the form of a film that has heroes and heroines, villains and vamp, love and betrayal, sex, and suspense, all within it. Needless to say, the producer of this film is the Government and the distributor is the media. Thanks to the media as the distributor, this film/serial is being watched in every household. The people have picked their heroes, heroines, and villains according to their own understanding.
This case has pushed all discussion of economic depression into the background. The effect of this is so widespread that even those who had for long avoided this media spectacle have been forced to pick their own heroes and villains in this story. It is natural for progressive-minded people to show their support for the female character of the film, seeing the way in which she is being treated, and they did.
The media has shown its vulture-like treatment of many before this as well. When the image of the media falling over Rhea became viral on social media, I was reminded of another image, when in 2007 a teacher accused of trafficking children was not just groped and pushed by the media and a crowd of people, but even her clothes were torn off. If one tries to look back, they will be reminded of many such visuals and incidents.
This vulture-like character of the media was deemed righteous by those on the side of the late actor, and after this, the numbers of those supporting Rhea also increased. The number of followers and commentators of this film being distributed by the media also increased. By writing this, I too have now included myself in these numbers.
Meanwhile, in the media tamasha , three artists from Kabir Kala Manch an anti caste cultural group were arrested, out of whom Jyoti Jagtap was followed and arrested by the police, but this got buried somewhere because of the film of Sushant and Rhea
Airports got sold off, an education policy that will ruin the education system and leave the people uneducated was passed, the Railways got sold off, preparations are being made for LIC to be sold, and labour laws got scrapped. Lakhs of people were brought out into the streets with one blow. The economy is drowning, but the space for discussing all of these issues has been occupied by the Sushant-Rhea film peddled by the government.
Sushant-Rhea are part of this society, and so there should of course be a discussion about them. But if during these times a case like this becomes an election issue, then it can only be seen as a conspiracy.
The black magic, in this case, was not done by Rhea on Sushant, but by the government on its people through the media, because of which we have forgotten how to look at the truth.
The story of Rhea and Sushant is the story of this exploitative, sinking, economy. It is the story of the dirty gutter flowing behind the glitter and glamour of Bollywood. In an interview with Rajdeep Sardesai, more than the story of her being innocent is the story of this gutter. Where there is endless money, and not all of it earned from films. Where there is a big business of drugs, in which most people from the industry are involved in some way or the other. Where film stars invest in business ventures to amplify their wealth (Sushant, Rhea, and Shouvik had registered their own artificial intelligence company).
Where the successful have every comfort and luxury in their life, but their lives are in the hands of psychiatrists and their sleep is in the hands of drugs. Where they spend endless amounts of money to go abroad thinking that they will roam the streets of a different country, but lock themselves up in a room because of strange fears.
This is not the story of any one person, but the truth behind the glamour of this industry, a truth that comes out every now and then through someone or the other. Sometimes it is Parveen Babi, sometimes Sanjay Dutt, and now Sushant, or Rhea. Where reports of sexual abuse of women keep coming out and are considered commonplace. Rhea may be calling her fight a fight against patriarchy, but in her interview, her views regarding the Me Too movement, against the patriarchal abuse of power, did not seem to be too positive. During the Me Too movement also the stink of this gutter had come to the forefront, which they attempted to drive away by sprinkling perfume. The story of Rhea and Sushant should be seen as an example of this ‘elite’ organization of society. It is such an organization that might use even this story of their problems and make a film on it to make more profit.
The sinking of the entire country’s economy has affected the film industry as well, and this havoc has been exaggerated by the lockdown, with many artists reportedly going into depression. It may be that Sushant’s death was also a part of this.
Whatever it may be, this spectacle being broadcast in the form of a serial by the media has done the work of leaving behind the discussion on the failure of the government, because a national issue has been made out of the Bihar elections and Maharashtra politics even as unemployment remains a big question. Since this has become a football match between a handful of Hindu fundamentalist parties, and because of this we have forgotten our own circumstances, the question arises- was this actually an issue or is the government broadcasting this serial/film to cast black magic on us?
The faster we escape this black magic, the better.
The article is translated into English by Damayanti Saha.