Tag Archives: #SushantSinghRajput

Sushant Singh Rajput in Kai Po Che.

One Year Since Sushant…

As the first death anniversary of Sushant Singh Rajput approaches, we relive the moments that made his memorable debut in the 2013 movie Kai Po Che.

At the start of director Abhishek Kapoor’s film, a bunch of athletes is introduced to us, one after the other, with a voice-over in the background telling us about their names and their achievements. The screen slowly pans out and we realize the voice is actually that of Govind (Rajkummar Rao), and this is a pitch for his Sports academy (Sabarmati Sports Club). He ends the presentation with a quick mention of a potential international debutant in cricket, named Ali, albeit without any visuals.

As the story rewinds to 10 years earlier, we, and Ishaan, (the second protagonist of the three lead characters, played by Sushant Singh) first notice Ali from his back after the latter “catches” a ball whacked by Ali beyond the imaginary boundary in the crowded playgrounds. Ishaan asks a boy who the batsman is; the boy mentions he is someone from “outside their territory”. A few moments later, Ali throws a challenge to Ishaan, still a stranger to him. It is a win-all, lose-all challenge with a container of marbles at stake.

The scene quickly shifts the focus to the relationship between Ishaan and Ali, who are now tutor and disciple at the Sabarmati Sports Academy, still at its nascent stage. It takes a while for either of them to earn the other’s trust, and these scenes are nicely staged. Ali, still a boy, has his loyalty divided between the game of bat and ball and the one with marbles. Ishaan fumes at his commitment and chases him away from a practice session. In another scene, he storms into a Math class being instructed by Govind and teaches Ali the importance of stroking on the off-side. Ali scratches his head. Why? He is a natural, no? He doesn’t think too much when batting and gives the ball a thump the only way he knows. But Ishaan looks beyond this love-hate relationship with Ali and sees a future in him that no one else does.

Ishaan, the fearless warrior that he is, doesn’t bat an eyelid before breaking the headlight of an SUV, as a reprimand for a driver honking during the viewing of a cricket match; he likes to hold a gun that scares people nearby; and towards the end, he does not fear heading to Ali’s den for a cricket match the next day. But even the boldest have a weak moment, and Kapoor captures this beautifully in a short conversation on the phone between Govind and Ishaan, when the latter requests him to come over while expressing a “strange feeling of fear”.

The movie itself isn’t only about this tutor-disciple relationship. There is another delicious teacher-student relationship featuring Govind and Ishaan’s sister Vidya (played by Amrita Puri). Vidya woos him during Govind’s math tuition classes as he tries his best to wiggle out. 

The bigger problem for Govind though is the sports club he has set up with Ishaan and Omi (Amit Sadh). They are struggling to break even but are already dreaming of another facility in the city inside a mall. In the hope of making it big someday, they double-loan themselves while moving to the new mall. But their dreams are crushed when a natural calamity strikes one day. With everyone rushing for shelter, Govind instead runs barefoot to the mall to find what remains of the devastation. With such a feverish build-up to the interval, we look forward to how the story would shape up in the second half.

But from a fictional account this far, Kapoor shifts focus entirely to real-life happenings in 2001-2002. The principal characters take a back seat, while the supporting characters suddenly hog the limelight. There is generous screen space for Omi’s uncle, Bittu, the banker for the trio’s sports club in the first half, who unleashes his darker side. Omi himself, shown as a man of fewer words than others, is reduced to becoming a caricature towards the end.

All the subtleties and nuances that made the first half memorable are replaced by in-your-face moments that make you squirm in your seat towards the end. Even the 2001 India-Australia series, of which the second test match is covered with sufficient detail, appears to be shoe-horned into the plot without any major reason. They do create a feeling of nostalgia in the cricket lovers inside us, but what business does it have in a movie about the dreams and aspirations of three young men?

I wondered why Kapoor didn’t switch off the distractions to the plot with the material in his hand.


Anuj Chakrapani loves cinema and believes movies, like other forms of art, is open to interpretation. And when you begin to interpret, you realize that the parts are more than the sum. Adopting a deconstructionist approach, he tries not to rate movies as “good” or “bad”, instead choosing to capture what he carries away from watching them. Anuj lives in the SF Bay Area and works for a large technology company.


 

Dil Bechara: From Reel to Real

Sushant Singh Rajput’s posthumous film Dil Bechara recently released on Disney+ Hotstar. Clearly dedicated to him, the film begins with a smiling SSR playing the guitar while a quote of his flashes in the background: “Perhaps, the difference between what is miserable, and that, which is spectacular, lies in the leap of faith…#selfmusing.” Inspired by John Green’s novel The Fault in Our Stars, the film is set in Jamshedpur and its opening dialogues are what most bedtime stories start with: “Ëk tha raja, ek thi rani; dono mar gaye, khatam kahani.”   

Kizie Basu (Sanjana Sanghi) is a young girl suffering from thyroid cancer. An oxygen mask is attached to her person, which she carries with her at all times. Due to her disease, she has a largely boring life and feels like a reality TV show contestant who can be eliminated from the game of life anytime. She often attends funerals of strangers and sympathizes with their loss. More than anything else, she longs to be just like any other normal girl her age. 

Enter Manny (SSR), who she meets at a cancer counseling group. Though ill too, he is fun-loving and likes to sing, dance and act. SSR is sadly so energetic and full of life in this—his last film—with expressions that remind one of Shah Rukh Khan from the DDLJ days. He also spins magic with some promising dance moves in the film’s dreamy title song. Watching it one can’t help but lament with a heavy heart about such a talented life tragically wasted. 

The film has its share of clichés too—like the fact that Kizie and Manny’s taste in music doesn’t match. While she likes to hear soppy, mellow songs, he prefers the likes of Honey Singh. Along with Manny’s friend, the two of them start shooting a comical film together, and he shows her how to enjoy life. In turn, Kizie gets him to hear an incomplete soulful song by a singer whom she admires, and he begins to love the tune too. They write to the singer to conclude his song and request to meet him. Kizie can barely believe it when the singer invites them to Paris. Since her immune system is weak, it’s risky for her to travel, but with some coaxing, she goes to Paris along with Manny and her mother—who agree to fulfill her long-cherished dream. Though meeting the crazy singer (Saif Ali Khan) is a bit anticlimactic, the three of them have a great time in the city. 

With the stars of young love in her eyes, Kizie soon finds a raison détre in Manny, but filled with emotion, she frequently gets breathless and her heart beats faster when around him. Manny later tells Kizie that an ache had led him to discover sometime back that he too is going to die very soon. In a poignant scene, his family hugs him and cries, as his condition steadily deteriorates. He also attends a mock funeral for himself where his best friend and girlfriend read weepy vows to him, while he sits across and hears them out. Predictably the end of the film is melodramatic, made more true to life by the fact that SSR is no more in reality too. There are several dialogues that seem ironic now—and while they were being shot, no one probably had a clue about what the future holds. In one instance, Kizie tells Manny, “One doesn’t need to be popular to be a hero. You can be one in real life too.” 

The film’s subtle message is in the letter that Manny leaves behind before dying: “We don’t decide when we are born and when we die, but we decide how we live.” As Kizie tearfully watches visuals of the completed film that they had shot together, it could very well be Sanghi herself watching the completed Dil Bechara in real life now. In a sense, the film and SSR’s life remind you of the fleeting nature of existence itself, making you almost want to hug your loved ones a little tighter, laugh a little louder, and just live life a little more fully…

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Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer based in New Delhi. She is the author of Wanderlust for the Soul, an e-book collection of short stories based on travel in different parts of the world.

Sushant Singh Rajput Jolts Global Mental Health Dialogues

Trigger warning regarding mental health and suicide.

Sushant Singh Rajput, Disha Salian, Sudha Devi lost to mental health

Mental health has been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Headlines relating to suicide have sent shock waves through the community. A successful tinsel star, Sushant Singh Rajput and his former manager, Disha Salian, succumbed to their mental health within one week of each other. And in a tragically poetic fashion, as Sushant Singh Rajput’s last rites were performed, his sister-in-law, Sudha Devi, passed away, who had allegedly stopped eating upon learning of his death. The rippling effect of mental health ran its course.

Popular for his acting in both TV and film, the 34-year-old actor, delivered a strong anti-suicide message in his last seen 2019 film ‘Chhichhore’. On June 14, 2020, the actor was found in his Mumbai home. He was reportedly suffering from depression. A week earlier, he had written a heartbroken Instagram story addressing the suicide of his 28-year-old former manager, Disha Salian.

Is it the lockdown and the resulting loneliness or is it the disease itself?

“It is both,” said Dr. Farida Sohrabji, Regents Professor and Interim Head, Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics, Texas A&M College of Medicine, at a webinar organized by Ethnic Media Services, June 12, 2020. Both the molecular impacts of the virus and the pandemic-related isolation leads to depression,” she said.

The impact of social isolation can be quite devastating in many ways. Social isolation increases the risk of cardiovascular ailment, heightens the symptoms of autoimmune disease, and increases mental health issues. Not interacting with people increases the stress hormone cortisol and weakens the immune system. People who don’t have the virus but are being socially isolated slip into depression. The senior population, or those with comorbidities like diabetes, hypertension, etc., are isolated for their own good. They are entrapped by voluntary confinement and fall prey to depression.

And then there are those that are infected by the virus.“The virus enters the body through the nose,” says Dr. Sohrabji, “The nose is somewhat exposed to the brain and the virus can end up in the brain in the olfactory system (how we smell things). This area is strongly implicated with depression.”

Additionally, the full-blown inflammation caused by the virus has an effect on the brain and mood of the patient. “The proteins that fight the virus slash and burn cells in the war against the virus and the resulting inflammation can lead to depression,” she said. “ The medical community’s first thought was that the virus is akin to a respiratory disease but it has been noticed to be more than that. A broad basket of mental issues has been caused by it.”

Social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus can lead to depression and anxiety, while those infected with COVID-19 can experience mental health issues, including depression. Being cognizant of the dangers caused by the lockdown can help us help each other stay sane and safe. 

What can help?

A study by Harvard Medical School has a unique solution. Foster a pet. Pets have a calming effect. Dogs’ calming effect on humans appears to help people handle stress, the study says. Research suggests that people with dogs experience less cardiovascular reactivity during times of stress. That means that their heart rate and blood pressure go up less and return to normal more quickly, dampening the effects of stress on the body.

The power of touch appears to be an important part of this “pet effect.” Several studies show that blood pressure goes down when a person pets a dog. Having a dog is good for your heart too, says the study. Besides, dog owners tend to get more exercise as well. As coronavirus spreads across the US, Americans have stepped up to foster and adopt animals, keeping them out of shelters.

Contextualizing

”We come up with our sort-of explanations, even if they are not particularly persuasive, and then file the event away,” says Malcolm Gladwell on suicide. “I keep coming back to how important context is in understanding behavior.” 

The incontrovertible fact is that Sushant Singh Rajput, Sudha Devi, and Disha Salian were casualties of mental anguish during the lockdown. Rest in peace to all the lives that have been lost due to mental health.

Ritu Marwah is an award-winning author whose interest in history has led her to chronicle our life in times of COVID. How many more must we lose?