Suicides, with and without fame
Published : Thursday, 24 September, 2020 at 12:00 AM Count : 389
Unexpected and mysterious deaths in the superficial glamorous world of art, acting, singing to any form of theatrical performance is quite old. And when it comes to suicide cases, melodramatic guesswork to conspiracy theories keeps flowing in the air. The recent media hype surrounding the death of a Bollywood star seems to have taken millions by storm.
The deceased actor's name is Sushant Singh Rajput. The Indian actor in his early 30s - looks handsome, confident and also promising in his profession - why did he then commit suicide?
The purpose of this piece is intended to focus on the honest admission of failure while picking up the challenge for what lays ahead. However, there are two types of celebrities those who commit suicide.
Under the first category, a celebrity commits suicide despite wider fame and acknowledgement. Under the second category, the supposed-to-be celebrity commits suicide because of failing to earn fame and acknowledgement. The red line, dividing the two types of suicide often fascinates this writer. Let me restrict the boundary purely within the broader world of acting.
In the past decade, I have personally come across dozens of failed domestic TV, stage and big screen actors. Almost all of them voiced their tormented agonies about industry manipulation, nepotism, director or producer played machinations, and of course bad luck. Not even a one that I can name admitted to their professional and qualitative limitations.
I was a college student, when the locally famed Romeo Salman Shah reportedly took his life in 1996. The reaction in those early days of mobile phones and internet was simply unbelievable. A couple of his fans reportedly committed suicide failing to tackle emotions. Just barely three years earlier in 1993, death of the Bollywood diva, Divya Bharti under mysterious circumstances had sent shockwaves to the media industry. Even though at school, it felt like someone as Moushumi or Shabnaaz, the local heartthrobs of that time, had committed suicide.
The truth in short, Instead of bringing happiness and freedom for many - being rich and famous at the top of their game - leads to an identity crisis and ruminations on their self-worth. And it is on this point where there is a critical test on your strength of character.
The glitzy world of showbiz has always been deceptive at large. The ones, who embark upon the status of celebrity, must also risk the psychological challenges linked to it.
It was a cold December evening last year. I was working at office. Suddenly one of my editorial assistants cried aloud, Kushal Punjabi was dead. I had absolutely no knowledge of the dead Indian actor. The 42 year old actor reportedly hanged himself. The farfetched ripple-effect of that suicide had led a local theatre actor here to quit his job for good.
Whatever the reasons lay behind the unexpected suicides of national and international celebrities, one fact is for sure - when you are in the game of chasing fame and recognition - you have intentionally kept yourself under extreme mental pressure. If you don't know how to handle it, the repercussion is often deadly. Fame, recognition and accolades in the tinsletown clearly establishes an actor, but a human's wider personal desire for longing to live mindfully, goes far beyond.
The essential question in this regard, what is the most important in the list of priorities for an actor in the long run? If professional success or failure turns out to be the ultimate benchmark for your living in this world - you are living a dangerously fast life by suppressing all in life, since your shelf life and market value in the industry are markedly limited and uncertain.
I still remember the day when my mother was in tears when the famed Bollywood diva Parveen Babi passed away, sometime in the January of 2005. We were listening over the tragic event while having Chinese at an upmarket Delhi hotel. The actor died a lonely and painful death triggered by mental trauma and illness for years. I guess it takes painstaking balancing, between the two lives for an actor. An occupational hazard among the silver screen idols is that, both success and failure can prompt you to go for the worst.
However, those who dream to shine in today's complex and competitive tinsletown, wherever that may be, must realise the fact, success in the silver screens comes at an unimaginable higher cost. Caught between reality and illusion, most actors today find it difficult to separate their two lives by drawing a clear boundary. These undesirable deaths are not only confusing, in many ways they become primary and secondary causes of more deaths to follow. For sensitive followers and fans, unnatural deaths of their idols cast a dark shadow questioning the meaning of life and living.
Bollywood's famed Deepika Padukone has shared a firsthand account of combating mental illness and depression at almost the peak of her career. She fortunately sought the right counselling at the right time, but not all are as lucky and intelligent as her. Lack of psychological counselling within the filmdom is one reason. The industry in recent times has turned so egoistic while spilling over with narcissism - it does not occur to anyone to sense that a colleague may be in danger committing suicide.
At the end of the day, if it is your film career drawing you near death, quit it. Before you tighten the noose or pull the trigger, remember you are encouraging many more to follow your path. Celebrity or not, you are a human first. You count more than your acting. Value your true existence. Learn to live with or without fame.
The writer is assistant editor, The Daily Observer