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RIP, Roaring Comedian

Rahul Da Cunha Robin Williams. Oh Mork from outer space. O Captain! My Captain! I’m so sorry about this. It was so unexpected, so utterly tragic. We love you here in India. That you could pull off mimicry, method acting, melodrama, melancholia and menace with so much elan.

That you could shift between sitcoms, stand up comedy, saccharine sweetness and sombreness with such ease. (Bollywood loved you too, just rent out Munnabhai MBBS and Chachi 420 from any video library in the sky, you’ll see what I mean.)

Robin Williams
Illustration/Amit Bandre

It’s been a tough two years. First Gandolfini, then Seymour Hoffman and now you. For some reason, your passing has hit the world with the most velocity. Nobody expected you to be anything but happy.

It’s like, how can funny men like Groucho Marx, Charlie Chaplin, and you ever be depressed? You guys are meant to lift us out of the depths of despair. Not be overwrought, manic-depressive souls yourselves. It’s hard to imagine that an actor whose forte was comedy would die tragically, with his wife sleeping in the next room.

Plus the fact that suicide has that ‘what a waste’ label to it.

Sure, we mourned Seymour Hoffman, but a heroin overdose doesn’t have the same tragic quality as hanging oneself.

There’s a new acting avatar of you popping into my head every nano second. Obviously, Mrs Doubtfire and Aladdin, and Good Morning Vietnam, all the stuff that you could do with your eyes closed and dress on. But there were the straight parts, where you showed your tragic side, the acting chops — Good Will Hunting, The Fisher King and Awakenings.

All your films were somehow about hope. And yet, at the end, all you obviously felt was hopelessness. May I ask you a few questions? I leave you to decide which ones you choose to answer. I speak for millions of your fans who are confused.

Why did you need to end your life, when you seemed so full of it? Were there demons, a darkness that all the finest counsellors, therapists and analysts couldn’t help you work out? Could no wise man look past your wisecracks?

What was it you were feeling that was so extreme you had to call it quits?

Can I share a theory about showbiz and suicide? Of course, there’s the sex drugs and rock-and-roll bit. Geniuses like Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain hitting unbelievable highs, creating their best work and then facing burnout.

Then there’s the issue of relevancy. When the supreme artist, one of God’s Chosen Few, feels he’s achieved his optimum. All that the future holds is pure stagnation. Death seems the only answer.

Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. Reading too much into this untimely suicide of yours, Patch Adams. In your case, was the mask just simply something you couldn’t wear anymore. Was the clown just exhausted? The comedian finally just short of energy. Either way, here’s what I’d like on your tombstone. RIP, oh dead poet.

Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at rahuldacunha62 @gmail.com

The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.

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