Mental health is an issue few Bollywood films have taken up. But the ones that did, carried forward a strong message for those experiencing mental health issues. The film industry recently lost Sushant Singh. Unfortunately, in our society, our conversations on mental health are pushed under the carpet and we have not been encouraged to discuss it or seek help. Here’s a look at a few films that explored the issue.
Taare Zameen Par
A film deals with dyslexia. The family has an authoritarian father who expects perfection from his children. Often there is a comparison between the prodigal son and the protagonist – Ishaan. The father refuses to believe that an underlying issue might exist other than a misdemeanour and the process of plain ‘not wanting to work hard and only play’ phase.
Ishaan is sent off to a boarding school as a disciplinary action that does not bode well. The art teacher (Aamir Khan) shatters father’s arrogance, time and time again making him realise that he needs to do better as a parent and be more accepting of his children for who they are. It shows how a kid who has difficulty even tying his shoes, is an extraordinary painter. These children should be taught to harness their other capabilities and talents rather than focusing solely on academics.
Judgementall Hai Kya
The title itself is a play on ‘mental hai kya?’- a commonly spoken rhetoric among many Indians. When we first see Bobby (Kangana Ranaut) she’s doing a headstand signifying her upside-down view of the world. She slides from becoming anxious to mild personality disorders and then is shown to be schizophrenic when she starts hallucinating cockroaches.
These movies have revolutionary impacts on our straightforward views of mental disorders.
Her childhood trauma of seeing her father harassing her mother leads her to think of an alternative space where all men are beasts. She becomes many detectives in her head to solve the murder and save her sister. A very thrilling movie that shatters the conventional ceiling of Bollywood movies addressing mental health.
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Two words can deceive this movie perfectly – simple and relatable. It projects the life of a millennial who is trying to make it big in the professional world. Kaira (Alia Bhatt) has anxiety and sleeplessness. She consults a psychologist after she hears him speak at an event. She feels like she needs help and tries to get it. We are not told if she has a clinically defined disorder, but some problems with which she needs help. It’s that simple and relatable.
The psychologist, Jug (Shahrukh Khan) uses an unconventional approach to therapy. She has been in several relationships and Jug doesn’t judge her for that. The movie also breaks stereotypes around the LGBTQIA+ community and how women can want to not get married and focus on their careers instead. At a family dinner, she bursts the bubble of seeing a psychologist and confronts her parents of their behaviour which she feels was incorrect. She felt abandoned and on some level unloved by her parents. The message is loud and clear- seeking help for daily life problems is not something to be ashamed of.
The movie also breaks stereotypes around the LGBTQIA+ community and how women can want to not get married and focus on their careers instead.
Sushant Singh Rajput played the role of a teen’s dad. His son tries to end his life on finding out that he has not qualified the IIT. And as a father Sushant Singh tells the story of his college days which has a lesson how no one is a loser. The film follows the hostel life Sushant and his six friends. And tells us the story how once branded as losers they fight to get a standing ovation from their rivals. It tells you how you can change your life and make the best of what you’ve got.
It points to the common problem of parental pressure on children and shows the effects of peer pressure.
Karthik Calling Karthik
This psychological thriller revolves around an introverted schizophrenic. He also suffers from a dissociative identity disorder. Karthik (Farhan Akhtar) received calls from an unidentified called named Karthik just as he is about to kill himself. The person on call claimed to be the man’s well-wisher and coached him through struggles of low self-esteem. It is revealed that Karthik had been suffering from schizophrenia and has created a brother, Kumar.
These movies have played a monumental role in breaking the stigmas around mental health and therapy.
It’s later revealed that Karthik would get up in the middle of the night and record a message for himself. He would then listen to it every day. Shonali (Deepika Padukone) stops him from ending his life and helps him through his problems. The film deserves mention for addressing a serious issue like schizophrenia.
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There are many more movies in Bollywood which have touched upon topics around mental health such as Guzaarish, Ghajini, Anjaana Anjaani, etc. It will suffice to say that the country is moving towards a positive directive in accepting of mental health problems. And in the future we wish to see more such content.
If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health disorders, please reach out.
Bhavya Gupta is an intern with SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the authors’ own.