Rhea Chakraborty may have been crowned the ‘Most Desirable Woman’ of 2020 by a leading publication recently but she remains persona non grata in Bollywood even a year since her actor-boyfriend Sushant Singh Rajput was found dead at a rented apartment in Mumbai.
The film industry continues to treat the 28-year-old actor like a veritable outcast ever since she was singled out -- in the prolonged media trials -- as the woman responsible for the death of her live-in companion under mysterious circumstances on June 14 last year.
Although some people from the film industry intermittently praised and sympathized with her for the way she has faced her ordeals over the past 12 months, including a month-long stay behind the bars, none has come forward so far to sign her for any new project – either a film or web series or even a TV serial.
Even those who had promised to work with her before and after Sushant’s tragic end have kept a distance from her. Chehre, her solitary film which she had signed before the lockdown is also yet to see the light of the day. The Amitabh Bachchan-Emraan Hashmi-starrer was supposed to release in the theatres in April this year but the second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic put paid to her hopes.
The film’s release was postponed at the last minute because of the closure of the theatres across the country but it had become quite obvious by then that Chehre’s makers wanted to underplay her presence in the film because of the controversies about her. She was conspicuous by her absence in the first trailer of the film while she had a blink-and-miss appearance in the second. Producer Anand Pandit later clarified that he did not want to ‘take undue advantage of her situation for the commercial benefit of his film’.
But trade analysts believe that no film-maker has come out yet in open support of Rhea primarily because of two reasons: the ongoing cases filed against her by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB)and the fears of facing a backlash from Sushant’s fans.
Last year, Mahesh Bhatt’s Sadak 2, his eagerly-awaited comeback movie, was mercilessly trolled simply because the veteran director had lent his support to Rhea after Sushant’s death. As a result, the filmmakers, who were initially keen on signing Rhea put their projects on hold indefinitely. The CBI, however, is yet to close its probe into the Bihar-born actor’s suicide-or-murder case while NCB has already named Rhea as an accused in its charge-sheet in a drug-related case.
Last year, actor-producer Nikhil Dwivedi, who had co-produced Salman Khan’s Dabangg 3, had gone on record as saying that he would like to work with Rhea ‘when all this is over. Since ‘all that is not over ’ yet, he has put his plans in abeyance too. Writer-director Rumi Jaffery was supposed to start a film with Rhea and Sushant in the lead in February 2020. That movie also appears to have been shelved. Jaffery has since expressed hope that a talented actor like Rhea will bounce back, But he has also called for waiting for the judiciary to give its verdict in the cases against her.
But then, a court trial can run for years. An actor’s career, howsoever promising, can be ruined if every producer keeps waiting for the final verdict in such cases. A lot of money is indeed involved in film-making and emotions have no role to play in this business but Bollywood has not always been so indifferent to the actors fighting the legal battles. It has had different yardsticks for judging different people caught in similar circumstances.
Sanjay Dutt, for one, had no dearth of film offers after he came out of jail on bail in the Mumbai blasts case in 1993. Even though he continued to fight his legal battle for more than two decades, he kept getting good work. Salman Khan has also been accused in a few cases over the years but he remains a much sought-after superstar.
Rhea, of course, is neither Sanjay Dutt nor Salman Khan, who belong to high-profile Bollywood families. As an outsider, she will never get a similar treatment. Therefore, until the court delivers the final verdict in the cases against her, she has to fight her lonely battle without expecting any support from the film fraternity.