The Producers Guild of India on Friday said actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death was being used as a tool by the media to defame the entire film industry. The organisation added that the film industry has been portrayed as a “terrible place” for outsiders and and a “murky den of substance use and criminality”.
Rajput was found dead in his apartment in Bandra on June 14, in what the Mumbai Police said was a case of suicide. It was initially suspected that the actor felt slighted by cliques in Bollywood and was driven to suicide. His death is being investigated by the Narcotics Control Bureau, the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate, since allegations of drug abuse and money-laundering have become linked to the case. Actor Rhea Chakraborty is the key accused in the case.
“The last few months have seen relentless attacks on the reputation of the Indian film industry across all media,” the Producers Guild of India said in an open letter. “The death of a promising young star has been used as a tool to slander and defame the film industry and its members. A picture has been painted of the industry as a terrible place for outsiders to aspire to; a place that treats those who dare to enter it with contempt and derision; a murky den of substance abuse and criminality. This narrative is sagacious enough for the media to exploit to great effect in order to boost its ratings, readership and page views.”
The organisation said that though the film industry had its flaws, it was wrong to portray the whole world of Indian cinema in a negative way. “Like any other sector, there is no doubt that the film industry has its imperfections, and there must be an ongoing attempt by the industry to improve upon itself,” it said. “But to paint an entire industry with the same brush is a gross misrepresentation of reality.”
The Producers Guild refuted allegations that the Indian film industry stopped talented people from outside the cinema world from succeeding. “There are scores of talented actors, directors, writers, musicians and numerous other film professionals across multiple disciplines who have had absolutely no connection to the industry, but who have flourished and produced inspiring and path-breaking work, which has defined and then redefined Indian cinema,” the organisation said. “Being born into the industry most definitely affords you the privilege of access and a first break, but after that it is up to each individual talent, hard work and drive to propel them forward.”
The organisation clarified that it did not wish to negate the experiences of any person from the industry.
The organisation also spoke out against the negative portrayal of women in the media. “Members of the industry on both sides of this debate, especially women, have been subjected to rape threats and death threats,” the organisation said. “This is unacceptable and must stop now.” The organisation urged media to show decency while covering Rajput’s death.
The Bombay High Court had on Thursday directed media houses to exercise restraint while reporting on Rajput’s death and not try to influence the investigation in the case.
Several journalism organisations have also urged media houses to report on Rajput’s death in a sensitive manner. On Sunday, the Network of Women in Media criticised media for targeting Chakraborty and said investigating authorities should be allowed to do their job fairly. Last month, the Press Council of India had advised media organisations to adhere to journalistic standards, refrain from sensational reporting and not conduct a trial in the case.