On the sleepy morning of June 14, 2020, while the country was coping with the impact of a state-imposed forced lockdown to curb the rise of Covid-19, the disturbing news of Sushant Singh Rajput’s alleged suicide shocked his fans and the purveyors of Hindi cinema. An actor who had tasted success on the basis of sheer hard work and talent, it was surprising that he would call it quits after only a few failures. Soon there were murmurs about him being depressive and under the influence of hard drugs. The Bollywood PR machinery went on an overdrive to paint him as one who couldn’t handle first his success, his relationships and bad choices. There were rumours of him being a difficult person on film sets, too. The news would die a slow and silent death if his fans were not perturbed by how their humble hero left the world. Soon the urban chatroom got excessively active, where the common masses threw up insight as to how this death might not be what it was being made to look like.
There were suggestions of ‘murder’ even as SSR was shown to be badgered by the dangerous nexus of vicious drugs mafia and the club where nepotism thrives. Conspiracy theories ran rife as pro-SSR camps faithfully battled for justice while his detractors maligned his reputation with deep malice. There were suggestions that Aditya Thackeray, the crown prince of the then political party governing Maharashtra, could be involved in the incident. With the media circus surrounding the unfortunate event, the Uddhav Thackeray Government made a consolidated effort to sweep the controversy under the carpet by blowing up a stigma cloud against not just Sameer Wankhede, the CBI representative involved in the investigation, but also harassing a famous TV journalist whose channel dared to raise some seriously unsettling questions that didn’t let the SSR death controversy be forgotten that easily. Popular YouTube influencers were arrested on flimsy grounds to silence the uproar even as Riya Chakraborty, the deceased actor’s alleged girlfriend, was positioned as the dartboard to deflect blame from the real perpetrators.
More than two years later, after the initial police investigation declared the death as suicide by hanging, there seems to be noise again, giving some hope to SSR fans and his family, who have been waiting for justice.
Roopkumar Shah, a mortuary staff working at Cooper Hospital who conducted SSR’s autopsy the day his body was taken there, in his recent media interaction, said that as per his observations of the marks on the corpse, it was not a suicide but a murder. He claimed that the post-mortem was supposed to be recorded but they were instructed by the higher authorities only to take pictures of the body.
Roopkumar Shah, a mortuary staff working at Cooper Hospital
“Main sir se baat karne gaya – sir ye thoda alag case dikh raha hai…kyun ki 28 saal ka mere ko tajurba hai, main 50,000-60,000 bodies kar chuka hun. Saheb bole baad me discuss kariye…ignore kiya mere ko (I told Sir that it was a different case. Because I have 28 years of experience and have done 50,000-60,000 cases. Sir said will discuss it later),” Shah said.
When asked why he felt the case was different, he said the marks on the neck were different from the ones in the cases of suicides. “Injury marks were there on his body. There were signs of beating…how they did it, don’t know,” he told.
After the Maharashtra Police, the case was taken over by the CBI. However, since then, the CBI has been unable to declare the final conclusion after an AIIMS panel ruled out murder. The recent development hence is noteworthy.
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Is there hope yet for the reality to come out, considering the ruling party now has leaders who had earlier demanded a transparent probe? With Dev Fadnavis and Eknath Shinde taking care of Maharashtra now, will they ensure that SSR’s family’s wait for justice isn’t endless and that his fans, who have been fighting for their hero, are rewarded when the perpetrators are punished?