Mumbai, MAHARASHTRA — On August 18 this year, Rhea Chakraborty’s lawyers issued a statement that summed up her year-long relationship with Bollywood star Sushant Singh Rajput in a few terse paragraphs. To paraphrase:
Chakraborty and Rajput were known to each other for several years and occasionally interacted, until they hit it off at a party in April 2019 and began dating soon after. The relationship between Chakraborty and Sushant’s sister Priyanka got off to a rocky start. The couple moved in together in December 2019. On June 8 2020, Chakraborty moved into her parents’ house as she was suffering from anxiety attacks. Rajput, too, was in a bad place, according to the statement. A few days later, on June 14 2020, Rajput died by suicide.
Two months on, a concatenation of circumstances which make sense only in India in 2020 has turned the tragic death of one of India’s most luminous stars into an unseemly public humiliation of Chakraborty, where many blame her, and her family for Rajput’s death.
An upcoming election in Bihar, the Narendra Modi government’s urge to manage every event using central enforcement agencies and the media, and India’s ambient radiation of politics, misogyny and patriarchy have all played a role in fostering a public conversation so vitriolic that Rajput’s former therapist, Susan Moffat Walker, broke doctor-patient confidentiality to speak up about the actor’s final days.
“Misinformation and conspiracy theories made it my duty to make a statement,” Walker said in an interview with journalist Barkha Dutt, adding that she had diagnosed Rajput as struggling with severe bipolar disorder.
Walker’s statement has done little to assuage those who insist there is more to Rajput’s death than meets the eye. Earlier this week, the...