Actor Vishwak Sen is busy promoting his upcoming Telugu language film Ashoka Vanamlo Arjuna Kalyanam. The actor, to promote his film was at TV9’s studio with anchor Devi Nagavalli however things took an ugly turn when the two got into a verbal altercation while they were on air.
Anchor Devi reportedly called the actor a depressed person and also called him pagal (crazy). Sen responded on a strong note and asked Devi to not speak ill about him. The anchor to his request responded angrily and commanded he get out of the studio.
Devi Nagavalli Vishwak Sen Row
In the video that has surfaced online, actor Vishwak was telling anchor Devi, “So, you don’t have the right to attack me personally. You better mind your tongue and not call me the depressed person or Paagal Sen. You understand.”
The altercation was fueled further when the anchor repeatedly yelled, “You can get out of my studio.” And Sen responded with an expletive and says he was invited by the channel as he got up to leave the studio.
What had sparked the altercation? Anchor Devi had broached the subject of a recent prank video featuring the actor in which a fan threatens to self-immolate himself. The “suicide prank video” was created to promote Sen’s film which drew ire and an advocate has approached State Human Rights Commission regarding the issue.
The altercation happened live and a clip of it was later shared online which has now gone viral with many criticising the journalist for the way she handled the situation. She has been called unethical, and irresponsible and asked for her termination.
Was Devi Nagavalli In The Wrong?
The Internet seems to be divided with some people including filmmaker Ram Gopal Verma, Hyderabad Mayor siding with the anchor. Her behaviour, which was supposedly driven by anger, is in no way, shape or form an acceptable way of handling a debate while she was on live television. Additionally, her commenting on the actor’s mental health and calling him pagal while referring to his film Paagal was very insensitive of her.
Undoubtedly, pranks related to suicides are insensitive but it was unbecoming of the anchor to counter it by being insensitive herself and commenting on his mental health unnecessarily. When we as a society are striving to destigmatise mental health issues, incidents as such put a dent in the very little progress we make.
In India, mental health issues are largely frowned upon and there are issues concerning accessibility that some mental health professionals are trying to bridge. During such circumstances, an altercation like this where a prominent news anchor of a popular TV News network will use it to berate an actor, there are chances that it may propagate the stigma further and normalise insensitivity towards mental health issues.
We hardly think before making loose mentions of major health conditions affecting real lives in social settings while describing behavioural highs or lows. This trivialises the subject of mental health issues which already is shrouded with taboos.
When you fling names of disorders at someone who does not have them, it is depreciating the medical value of the illness. Moreover, even if Vishwak Sen was struggling, it was unbecoming of Devi for divulging it to the public without the actor’s consent and using it to rake a controversy.
World Health Organisation’s National Mental Health Survey of 2015-16 noted how one in 20 Indians was depressed. The numbers have exponentially grown during the pandemic with another study showing that depression and anxiety disorders have increased by 35%. How fair is it to remain desensitised toward mental health disorders? Can we afford to be insensitive about such grave issues?
Views expressed are the author’s own
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