On June 18, four days after Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, producer Vijay Shekhar Gupta launched the film Suicide or Murder? A Star was Lost on his Instagram account. The lead actor is TikTok star Sachin Tiwari, who has been cast as “the outsider”. Gupta gave some background about Tiwari’s character on Instagram: “A boy from small town became a Shining Star in the film industry. This is his journey.”
On July 17, Gupta introduced the hero’s nemesis, “the nepoking”, who is a “Big Shot Film Producer. But he only launches star kids.” This role will be played by Rana, who also raps and composes music as King Sultaan.
The resemblance between Tiwari and Rajput is hardly a coincidence, nor is the similarity between Rana and Bollywood mogul Karan Johar. Much of the debate surrounding Rajput’s death by suicide has revolved around unverified claims that powerful Bollywood clans ganged up against Rajput to undermine his career. Among the personalities who is in the crosshairs is second-generation filmmaker Karan Johar.
In 2017, Kangana Ranaut called Johar the “flag-bearer of nepotism” on his television chat show Koffee With Karan. Ranaut was referring to Johar’s tendency to launch star kids in his productions. She revived the nepotism debate after the actor’s death.
The Mumbai police investigating Rajput’s death have already questioned Apoorva Mehta, the chief executive officer of Johar’s company Dharma Productions, and have also reportedly summoned Johar.
Evidence that Rajput did not die by his own hand is sketchy. The postmortem report said that Rajput had died by hanging, and a forensic report confirmed that no “foul play” was involved.
However, Gupta believes otherwise: “It was 100% planned murder,” he told Scroll.in over the phone from Delhi. He is aiming for a theatrical release in December or January.
The case took another twist earlier this week when Sushant Singh Rajput’s father, Krishna Kishore Rajput, filed a First Information Report in Patna alleging that the actor’s girlfriend, Rhea Chakraborty, and her family members had conspired to embezzle money from Rajput and weaken his mental health.
According to Mumbai Mirror, Krishna Kishore Rajput alleged that Chakraborty’s family took control of his life and got him hooked to medication. The family claims that Rs 15 crore was moved from Rajput’s bank account to “accounts that had nothing to do with him”. A team from the Bihar Police is in Mumbai to pursue the allegations.
Is Suicide Or Murder? an attempt to exploit Rajput’s death? “This film is not just about Sushant Singh Rajput,” Gupta said. “I want to expose the dark side of the film industry, the Bollywood mafia, the nepotism, which doesn’t allow outsiders to survive. When I heard the news of his death on June 14, I realised it was murder just like Divya Bharti, Jiya Khan, and Disha Salian.”
Divya Bharti, who had a short but successful film career, died in 1993 at the age of 19 after falling off the balcony of her apartment. Actor Jiah Khan was found hanging in her home in 2013. She was 25. A court in Mumbai charged Sooraj Pancholi, the son of actors Aditya Pancholi and Zarina Wahab, with abetting Khan’s suicide in 2018.
Disha Salian, Rajput’s former manager, died by suicide six days before the actor’s death.
“What I will show is the true story of certain people, because of whom Bollywood gets a bad name,” Gupta claimed. “Sushant Singh Rajput, Divya Bharti, Jiya Khan, are only the few names the industry knows, but people don’t know many such other incidents that happened. I will show what I have seen with my own eyes working in the film industry for 31 years.”
According to his website vsgmusic.in, Gupta has been an advertising filmmaker since 1991. He runs the music label VSG Music, which produces Hindi, Punjabi, and Bhojpuri songs. He also claimed to have financed several films, but said that Suicide Or Murder? is the first project to which he is attaching his name as a producer.
Gupta’s project has been met with a mix of trepidation and condemnation from prominent Hindi filmmakers, including Hansal Mehta and Anurag Basu. Mehta who has made a series of biopics, told Hindustan Times that if Gupta’s intent is to “simply capitalise on something that’s topical, I think that’s not ethical”.
Anurag Basu said that this was “not a legit movie”. Vivek Agnihotri assured Hindustan Times that “this film will never even be made. It looks shady.”
Gupta criticised the comments. “Nobody has the guts to raise their voice against nepotism,” he declared. “These people only want to earn money.”
The producer said he wasn’t concerned about facing legal challenges. “I want people to move courts and try to stop me,” said. “The more people stop me, the more I will move forward with strength.”