The untimely demise of actor Sushant Singh Raput on June 14, which was believed to be by suicide, has opened floodgates of emotions. While some are seeking justice, others are hoping that this incident will put the much-needed attention on mental health. Then there’s a large group that has taken to conspiracy theories behind the alleged murder, ranging from prejudice faced by outsiders in the film industry to blaming SSR’s girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty for abetment to suicide.
While some of the evidence makes one think that there's actually more than what meets the eye, it is undeniable that there’s a lot that’s deeply problematic about blaming Rhea Chakraborty.
Who decides if Rhea is guilty - A court of law, emotional media trials, passionate outbursts on social media channels, or family WhatsApp groups?
Yes, some evidence against her is already out in the public domain but (as of the time of writing this article) Rhea is yet to be tried in a court of law. Each and every detail - relevant or not - is out, and is being scrutinized every day in countless media trials and on social media. There have been multiple stories on her being “too quick to move in with a boy who she just started a relationship with,” or her being a “gold-digger who had complete access of her boyfriend’s credit card,” or “an opportunistic girlfriend who was keeping her boyfriend away from his family,” and worst of all, was “drugging him” and was “performing black magic to control him.”
In fact, the conversations around ‘Bengali girl performing black magic’ soon touched new heights of misogyny, when social media commentators started targeting Bengali girls in general, insulting the entire community.
The tirade against Rhea has even moved beyond her alleged intentions, to her character, and even her clothes. Rhea released a video statement on July 31 after a FIR was filed against her, and, once again, got massively trolled for trying to project herself as a “simple, innocent girl wearing a salwar suit.”
According to ANI, SSR’s family lawyer, Vikas Singh, has said, “Rhea coming in the video is not much of what she is saying but how she is looking. I don’t think she would have worn that kind of a salwar suit ever in her life. This was to show herself as a simple woman.”
YouTubers have also joined the trolling bandwagon with videos and vlogs alleging that Rhea had inappropriate relationships with filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt and politician Aditya Thackeray to advance her film career.
The negativity around Rhea has also led to making anyone making rational statements deemed as either supporting Sushant’s killers or spreading fake news. For instance, the fact that the late actor was fighting clinical depression, or that a 34-year-old, intelligent, educated man would have been capable of maintaining his relationships, life, and money, is completely ignored. The whole discussion is being projected as a good-versus-evil fight between a grieving family and cunning city-girl, a thought that’s deep-rooted in patriarchy and misogyny, where the parents of boys accuse girlfriends and wives of ‘brainwashing their sons’ and ‘taking them away from the family.’ Ironically, in a large part of India, it's still the girl who leaves her house and family to move in to her husband’s house, with his family.
Rhea too, like Sushant, is an outsider; but the trolls seem to be ignoring her struggles. SSR fans were deeply offended by the blind-pieces that labelled him as a ‘skirt chaser,’ but they seem to have no problem in propagating that Rhea was in multiple relationships to advance her film career.
We are quick to decode everything about a girl - her clothes, intentions, actions, but are happy to ignore the official investigation. Whatever the investigations eventually find, Rhea Chakroborty will be remembered only for the accusations made against her. Even if she is proved innocent, the relentless media trials and social media messages have ruined her career. Let’s not even talk about the state of her mental well-being; because like Sushant, she never ‘looked’ depressed.
(Edited by Athira Nair)