One person dies from suicide every 40 seconds. It is an issue that needs to be discussed sensitively. However, a platform like Bollywood has constantly used it as a gimmick to give its lead an ‘interesting’ background story.
For starters, in 3 Idiots, we had Joy, a young student who was frustrated and depressed enough to take his own life. But, did the rest of the film do him justice? Or was it just a small ‘jhatka‘ the movie needed to kickstart Boman Irani’s ‘bad guy’ image?
Instead of prying open the mental health standpoints and the stigma that surrounds suicide, Bollywood time and again gives us movies like Mohabbatein and 3 Idiots that use it for its own benefit.
Let’s start with Mohabbatein in which Aishwarya Rai plays a young woman who commits suicide when her father doesn’t approve of her boyfriend. And in the rest of the movie, she plays Casper the ghost and haunts Shahrukh Khan, her not-so-dead boyfriend.
Her suicide is merely used to supplement Shahrukh Khan’s story and forward his character arc. No one cares that this poor girl was mentally scarred enough to take her own life. No one speaks about her mental health, her overbearing father, her toxic boyfriend, nada.
But Mohabbatein was 19 years ago and maybe things have changed ever since.
There was also 3 Idiots in 2009. This popular blockbuster was applauded for its ‘rape’ monologue (thank god we’re more woke now) and the song, Give me some sunshine.
The character who sang that song commits suicide due to the high-pressure environment, but that’s the only mention he gets in the film! His suicide is basically just a way for Aamir Khan to get a monologue towards the end. Also, his mental health is never touched upon. Sadly, Sharman Joshi’s character also tries jumping off a window, once again belittling the idea for every viewer out there.
The third case in point is Anjaana Anjaani, which released in 2010. In this film, Ranbir Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra play two people who are ready to commit suicide but make a pact to live ‘happily’ till New Years Day. Apart from the plot, the fact that this movie assumed depression is actually just a ‘state of mind’ and you can always ‘choose to be happy’ is absolutely absurd. This is called toxic positivity, look it up.
They literally NEVER go to therapy and just hang out with other suicidal people? That is not healthy.
On the other hand, a movie like Dear Zindagi, which was also a product of Bollywood’s commercial cinema picked up the topic of mental health. And though, truth be told, it didn’t do an exceptional job, it still managed to open up the conversation of characters who have trouble loving themselves.
It showed us that therapy isn’t a taboo, that talking about your baggage doesn’t make you damaged, that comfort can be found if you seek it. It was a step in the right direction, whereas these movies pulled us back.
So Bollywood, here is a humble request. Stop treating suicide as a way to garner sympathy for your leads. It isn’t a twist, or a random topic that you just throw around.
It is a serious issue crippling people around the world, put on your sensitivity glasses and take a page out of Dear Zindagi. Suicide is the last resort for most people and takes it a hundreds of lives every day, yet somehow Bollywood can’t imagine writing about it with empathy.
P.S. if you’re looking for a film that understands the sensitivity that surrounds suicide, then watch the short film Baatein.