As this year has tested us on more than a few occasions, it’s time to address our how-to-speak-about-the-dead problem. Someone not given due acknowledgment as they lived and breathed, is disturbingly elevated to the status of an ‘angel’ or a ‘demigod’ in the matter of a single news-cycle. Something similar happened after Sushant Singh Rajput’s unfortunate passing around three weeks ago. Many ‘friends’ emerged from different corners of the world and made their heartbreak public on news channels. And now, that his last film is releasing at the end of this month, many are going into a ‘reverence’ overdrive. It almost appears like a lot of this sympathy outpouring is fuelled by a misplaced sentiment that a ‘hit film’ will somehow *avenge* a young actor’s untimely death.
There’s no point in being disingenuous about our feelings on the film. Rajput himself would probably be the first one to dismiss those mollycoddling the film out of pity. Doesn’t matter how you look at it, but the way you treat an actor’s film while he’s alive, should be the same way you treat even after his/her passing. Letting your commiseration seep into your feelings towards their film, is a sign of grave disrespect towards any self-respecting artist dead or alive. ‘Do not speak ill of the dead’, doesn’t seem like the most objective (and honest) way to evaluate someone’s work. It is time to recognise that the only way to be respectful of the dead, is not to lie about them. As professionals, and as human beings.
As we discuss Dil Bechara, the conversation can’t only be dominated by its lead actor’s sudden demise. Like some of us do feel, we should be allowed to wonder out loud if Rajput was perhaps a bit too old for the character being cast. In the original book by John Greene, the character of Augustus Waters is barely a 17 or 18-year-old. Was a 32-year-old Rajput a good fit for the role in 2018? Especially opposite a 22-year-old Sanjana Sanghi. It’s unclear if both the characters in the Hindi adaptation are teens, like they are in the original. Such conversation can’t be taboo, because someone on Twitter thinks it’s “disrespectful”.
Also, just because everyone has clearly forgotten the sexual misconduct allegations against the director, Mukesh Chhabra, we shouldn’t put a lid on the matter. That was the primary reason why the film ran into production troubles, was reportedly nearly shelved, and then brought back from the brink. Was due procedure followed, after which Chhabra was honourably cleared? Or was it another one of those botched jobs where Vikas Bahl was ‘acquitted’ just in time for the release of Super 30? We’ll never have any clarity, considering how the makers will never speak on it.
The more tweets and hashtags that I around Dil Bechara, the more cynical I become about how someone’s death is being used to plug a film. Sushant Singh Rajput was always a solid actor, and it’s unlikely that this last film will do anything to cement his reputation as something remarkably different. Even after his passing, we owe it to Sushant to be as discerning as possible while giving him a sincere feedback on his final performance. It’s important for us to not turn into polite stakeholders, who talk about Sushant Singh Rajput’s shortcomings in hushed tones. Knowing people in general, they will be doing that away from the cameras, mics and behind closed doors anyway. We need to be genuine in our response towards Sushant Singh Rajput’s final film, and that is the only way to honour the memory of this sincere, hard-working actor.