Soon after Sushant Singh Rajput’s death by suicide on June 14, actor Gulshan Devaiah shared a tweet that shook many of his fans and followers. It read, “As actors, somewhere deep down inside, we think we know why he did it & that’s why it so disturbing even if you didn’t know him at all. It’s a hard game to play and he played it very well but the game won in the end (sic).”
Talking to BT about his tweet, Gulshan said, “Sushant was an ambitious young man, who made it on his own. I didn’t know him personally, but he clearly wasn’t in a good place. It was disturbing, especially when you are from the same fraternity. It could happen to any of us.” Sushant’s demise triggered debates on the ‘insider-outsider theory’ in Bollywood, which has been raging since then.
Offering an insight into how the film industry operates, Gulshan, who hails from Bengaluru and is known for his work in films like Shaitan, Hunterrr, Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela and Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota, said, “All of us come to Mumbai with dreams and aspirations. Somewhere, our perception of success is skewed and that creates a lot of pressure. Star hai matlab fancy car, chaar managers, coterie chahiye. When you don’t get that, it leads to heartbreak. On the contrary, you should also know how to handle success. It can make you feel hollow inside.”
Speaking about the struggle most aspiring actors go through, he explained, “Rejection and failure is the story of all of us. Success is measured by the money you make and it becomes a game. You also put up with things that are perhaps against your nature and that is mentally exhausting. At the end of the day, you have to accept the nature of this industry and not take things personally. It can save you from hitting rock bottom.”
The actor gives an interesting take on what we often call the ‘privileged club’ in Bollywood. “We all have our set of privileges. I had access to education, and that empowered me. People from second generation film families have access to information about the workings of the industry that we don’t. People like Sushant, Rajkummar Rao, me… we had to learn these things first. But, after a point, everybody only gets those many chances. Initially, I thought that if I am good, I am good enough. That’s wrong. You have to make those calls, saying, ‘Are you casting for so and so film? I would like to audition’. I don’t like doing it, but that’s how it is,” he shared.
Gulshan added, “Nepotism is just the tip of the iceberg, the real issue is favouritism. For instance, some actors have the veto power to decide who his/her co-stars will be. I have lost out on films because of this. Bollywood is not a family. It’s a place of work, which is full of uncertainty, so you need to manage your expectations. Films are subjective and so is acting. Performance can’t be quantified, but your value as an actor depends on the returns you can guarantee. Reputation and perception pe sab chalta hai. It’s not an easy business.”
When asked if he has any advice for newcomers, the actor replied, “Hope, family, mental conditioning and my philosophical bent of mind have helped me. You have to find your safe place. Don’t expect things to happen fast. It’s a test match, so don’t play T20 innings here. You will only burn yourself out.”