Mental health issues are not a quirk. They are not a matter to laugh at, nor are they glamourous. Those who deal with any such ailment which lies on the varying and vast spectrum of mental health problems, know what a lonely, dark, exhausting and raw struggle it is. But alas, for Bollywood, mental health is just a quirk, a comic track or a plot point which can be used to gain sympathy or instill fear or even hatred in the audience for a character. Barring a few films, Hindi cinema’s track record, shows that it doesn’t understand mental health, but it sure as hell wants to exploit it.

KEY TAKEAWAYS: 

  • The posters of upcoming film Mental Hai Kya, are receiving flack for presenting mental health issues in poor light.
  • In the latest poster, we can see the two leads balance a blade on the tip of their tongues.
  • This poster was unnecessary and is a trigger for people struggling with self harm issues. 
  • Bollywood needs to stop reducing mental health issues to character quirks or devices to advance a film’s plot.

Mental health issues are not a quirk. They are not a matter to laugh at, nor are they glamourous.

The posters of the upcoming film Mental Hai Kya, starring actors Rajkummar Rao and Kangana Ranaut is receiving flack for presenting mental health issues in poor light. In the latest poster, we can see the two leads balance a blade on the tip of their tongues. The tag line read “Sanity is overrated.” Rao himself took to sharing the poster on Twitter by writing, “Madness has made its cut!” Not wanting to jump the gun, I seriously hope that this film does a lot to destigmatise mental health issues in India. But if this poster is anything to go by, it is only heading in the opposite direction so far.

Before the film releases, the social media is littered with images of two powerful and popular stars balancing a razor blade on their tongues. That too without any kind of trigger warning. Tell me how this doesn’t tell people that self-harm is eccentric or bohemian or twisted and thus cool? Do we want impressionable teens, struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, to be walking around the city, with this poster in sight almost everywhere? The sight of a mere blade in vicinity of a vulnerable person should raise concern in us, not intrigue or give us the idea that it will be fun.

But Bollywood has never shown any restraint when it comes to painting an incorrect picture of mental health issues. We have seen couples indulge in self harm when they “suffer” separation. We have seen “pagalpan” being used as a trope to give a “twist” to a film. We have seen insomnia being romanticized in endless film songs. The list of stereotypes created by Bollywood in portrayal of mental health is endless.

In the latest poster of Mental Hai Kya, we can see its two leads balance a blade on the tip of their tongues. How isn’t this a trigger for people dealing with self harm issues?

Why just Bollywood though, we as a society need to understand that we cannot go on feeding into stereotypes on issues that shouldn’t be made fun of. Some things are off-limits unless there is a team of experts or trained professionals from that field to council you on how your work may impact the population by large. Mental health is one of them. While the makers may have had a team of experts go through their script and even the film, they must have definitely done so for the posters. But even as a community we must pay closer attention to how we perceive mental health in general.

Are we intimidated by those who deal with certain issues? Do we find certain depictions of anxiety, hysteria etc on silver screen hilarious? Are we okay with triggers being shared mindlessly on social media without any warning? If yes, then we are part of the problem too. We must squash the stereotypes associated with mental health in our country, because this stigma keeps people from seeking help. They would rather endure their problems in silence than come out in the open, because the latter comes with the burden of words like wierdo, psycho and crazy – all of these words have found their way to the film’s poster by the way.

Mental health crisis is fast engulfing our country, but to combat it, first we need to fully understand it. We must strip it off all the stereotypes we have burdened it with till now and look at the issue at hand from an empathetic gaze. Thus unless Bollywood develop that gaze, perhaps they should approach such sensitive topics with more restraint. A blade on tongue is a completely unnecessary image, which we could all have done without.

Picture Credit : STP original

Also Read: Why We Need To Talk More About Difficult Pregnancies

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

Email us at connect@shethepeople.tv