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Bollywood and Mental Health

What better way to capture anyone’s attention but by the use of movies. Movies are fun, a hero, a heroine, a captivating story, troubles you don’t have to face but happy endings and victories that you too feel. Movies are also a big part of our society as a whole. They can influence us to a great extent. Have you ever felt like you want a partner too after watching “Kal Ho Na Ho”? or felt like your “Raj” is waiting for you out there? Or wanted to join the Indian Army after movies like ‘Raazi’ or ‘URI’? That’s because movies, or any sort of audio-visual message, is understood and stored in our minds quite easily, add an emotional connection to it and boom! We are where the filmmakers want us to be!

But are the movies misleading us?

How many of us thought college life would be all songs and dance and friendship bands and finding our soul mates? I know I did. These wrong impressions can cost us more than we think.

The movies tend to portray mental health the way it fits their story, not the way it actually is! The film “Kyun Ki”, starring Salman Khan, shows mental hospitals as a place to be feared, further fueling the myths. The term “Agra me tujhe dhund rahe hai” (People in Agra are searching for you) implying that you need to be admitted to a mental health facility that has been said multiple times in several movies. India has its fair share of movies depicting mental illness like the character of Varuna/peggy played by Nargis in the movie “Raat aur Din” (Night and Day) where she suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and here both gender and mental health stereotypes are strengthened by showing that the ‘Din’ identity or Varuna who is a submissive housewife living under the control of her husband is better than her other identity Peggy who goes out and has fun. The names also show how western culture is terrible and Indian values are the best. Again, do not promote an open mind to newer, and possibly better, changes. This movie was released in 1967, but it might have been 2021 because we are still not aware of mental health issues. At the same time, Bollywood has also led us to believe that mental health issues like anger, and substance abuse, when portrayed by men, are acceptable and when represented by women are criticized. Even in our daily life, a woman who publically displays anger is usually called derogatory terms.

In contrast, in domestic abuse cases, the woman is asked “aisa kya kiya ki bichare ko itna gussa aaya?” (What has this poor man done for you to be so angry at home) In movies, rightfully strong characters like Naina from “ Kal Ho Na Ho” is seen as someone who is criticized at the start of the film. Still, as soon as she starts falling in love and listening to a male who tells her to calm down, dressing in stereotypical ‘girly’ clothes is seen as if she has been reborn and is accepted. At the same time, characters like Kabir Singh are appreciated for precisely those values.

However, Bollywood has seen some great movies depicting mental disorders appropriately, although it is not accurate. Taare Zameen Par is a movie close to most of us! It was a part of us growing up, and we still feel nostalgic just thinking about it! The filmmakers did a fantastic job of making us realize Ishaan’s point of view. How he was just a kid who, like thousands of other kids, was misunderstood because people around him were unaware. How just a little acceptance and appreciation got him right on track. But I strongly condemn that people think, just because they have influence/authority over a childlike Aamir Khan did because he was Ishaan’s teacher, they can “counsel” the kid. No, you are not a counsellor just by the fact “ kya tumne zyada duniya dekhi hai” (Have you had more experiences in worldly matters). If we notice, there was a pattern and scientific approach to how Ishaan was helped.

Another movie that almost succeeded in showing an accurate picture of the counselling process was ‘Dear Zindagi’. It helped break stereotypes around mental illness and how nothing has to be wrong with you to go to therapy. Although therapy requires a proper setup, therapists can also take you to beaches to show how they are as human and non-threatening as others. The film also portrayed the beautiful process of termination, which itself makes this movie special.

At last some movie recommendations just for you-

  • 15 Park Avenue

  • Karthik Calling Karthik

  • Judgemental Hai Kya

Let us know what you think.

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