In our society, any man who does not weep at his mother’s funeral runs the risk of being sentenced to death. Death. When Albert Camus wrote about his hero, Meursault, the outsider, he wrote these highly paradoxical lines about the guy who does not play by the game. And by definition, therefore, is the stranger. The Outsider. Bollywood has had many of these outsiders. The people who come from small towns with big dreams in their eyes, the people who touch the feet of an elderly fan no matter where they are, the people who draw up a list of dreams and set out to fulfil them.
Sushant Singh Rajput was that outsider to 2010s Bollywood. He was the first breakout superstar of our generation. A man we went to see at the movies, an underdog we loved to see succeed. In most of these movies, he died. With that death, his characters stayed on with us even after we left the theatres. It began with Kai Po Che, when Ishaan’s half-smile stayed branded on to our minds for weeks after the end credits rolled. We reconciled with ourselves. He would be in another movie soon. It’s just a character. His fans never quite got over the fact that he died in so many of his movies. And in that screenshot that has now gone viral, he famously told one of them when she refused to see his film if he was dying in it, “Arre but if you don’t watch it then they would throw me out of Bollywood. I have no Godfather, I have made you (all) my Gods and fathers. Watch it at least if you do wish I survive in Bollywood.”
Surviving in Bollywood became his biggest task. An actor who had the only talent to fall back on, much like it happens in Bollywood today and has happened always, was cast aside. In 2016, Sushant had his big moment. It was the year when he would shut all his critics and shoulder a film like MS Dhoni The Untold Story. A film which made him inseparable from his onscreen role. Sushant, the Patna boy, played Dhoni, the Ranchi boy. It was a festival for all those millions of people young and old who rooted for these two outsiders. These two middle-class boys who made it big in life. Sushant’s life from his home in Patna echoed Dhoni’s from the railway quarters in Kharagpur. Sushant gave the biggest hit of his unbearably short career. The film gave this Bollywood outsider a new lease of life. This life, which runs from Friday to Friday at the box office and is ruthless to anyone without a surname or lineage to reckon with.
The film industry is not kind to outsiders. We have seen it multiple times. With Sushant Singh Rajput, our generation also got to see first hand what the ugliness was like. That talent alone wasn’t enough to survive in the big bad place called Bollywood. And the fame, the money that came with Bollywood, Sushant used to fulfil his other dreams. The kind of dreams that actually are dreams for any middle-class small-town boy. But he set out to conquer them. (MR, Inputs: Agencies).