Lights. Roll Camera. Action!
As the “Dreamy Girl” walked the red carpet in a beautiful pink lehenga choli, the bustling crowd went berserk at one glimpse. Behold! The star of the evening – Shanti Priya! The crowd gasps, some faint and others are too star struck to understand what’s happening in the background.
That was a perfect shot. This was the perfect life – but perfection has an ugly face, a putrid aspect.
Deepika Padukone is the superstar of her time. Being on camera felt natural to her and it came through in her all performances, all of which, she delivered with ease. Bollywood was her oyster and her fans merely her pearls.
Multiple hits, several accolades and one heartbreak later, Deepika found herself spiraling down an alley of depression and anxiety. The “Love Aaj Kal” star set headlines on fire when she publicly admitted to taking medication and seeking professional help for her mental turmoil.
An excerpt from her interview with Hindustan Times:
In early 2014, while I was being appreciated for my work, one morning, I woke up feeling different. A day earlier, I had fainted due to exhaustion; it was all downhill from there. I felt a strange emptiness in my stomach.
I thought it was stress, so I tried to distract myself by focusing on work, and surrounding myself with people, which helped for a while. But the nagging feeling didn’t go away. My breath was shallow, I suffered from lack of concentration and I broke down often.
Deepika explained how it felt like a struggle to even wake up, let alone get through the day. She revealed that when she first got diagnosed with anxiety and depression she was reluctant to accept the fact and even went for a second opinion. She then did what the doctors advised her to and is now much better.
The world lauded Deepika’s brave public confession. She didn’t just manage to reach out to her many fans but also gained her co-stars and seniors’ appreciation in the film industry. Shri. Amitabh Bacchan blogged about her confession calling it “very honest and daring.”
A celebrity’s life is not all rosy and dandy as it might seem from the outside world. They have to work as hard, stay in their top order – physically and mentally to be on top of their game. They cannot afford to have a bad day – so they think – and therefore all the real problems are brushed under the rug.
Bollywood’s tryst with extreme mental conditions runs long and deep. Parveen Babi and more recently Jiah Khan lost their battles to mental conditions but the more tolerant, resilient ones like Shah Rukh Khan, Manisha Koirala and our very own Deepika Padukone have emerged valiant.
Deepika’s confession came after her friend committed suicide due to the same problem that she was facing. The “Ram Leela” actress then took it upon her to spread as much awareness and remove as much stigma about one of the most common problems that plagues India and the world – Depression and Anxiety.
Months before Deepika’s confession, Aamir Khan – the “P.K (Peekay)” actor – also brought up the issue of Depression on national television. In the fifth episode of his superhit show “Satyamev Jayate,” Aamir pulled out statistics, real life incidents, problems, and tried to communicate with viewers that depression and anxiety wasn’t something to be ashamed of but rather was a life-threatening condition, which should be treated at its earliest.
Satyamev Jayate’s topics always trend on social media platforms immediately after they air and similarly, the depression episode got people talking. Twitter was abuzz with many thanking Aamir and other guests on the show for getting a dialogue going about the mental condition. Many also rung Aamir up to confess they were suffering from depression but didn’t know they were until they watched the episode.
Here’s a scenario – What if “Satyamev Jayate” was a show hosted by just another professor of Psychology or a professional doctor? What if Hindustan Times ran an article of a common housewife’s confession to facing depression? Would it have had such a massive impact?
I doubt that.
Why do brands choose movie stars or sports bigwigs as their ambassadors? Why do governments choose well-known people as representatives of certain agenda – be it Polio Eradication or Tourism?
Celebrities have a well-built podium when it comes to spreading word around, about everything and anything.
“What makes a celebrity a celebrity is their ability to command attention, and direct attention onto a problem,” Henry Jenkins, a communication professor at the University of Southern California said in an interview with NeoTommy Magazine.
In fact, surveys have shown that celebrities have a larger impact on the younger generation. A poll conducted across the United States showed that 77 percent of the young girls were affected by celebrities in some major way or the other.
But the effects are not just restricted to the West. In India, a Sachin Tendulkar fan and a Rajnikant aficionado could tear each other apart just to prove their loyalty to their heroes. Celebrities are revered to in India and to use that advantage for the greater good is definitely a noble notion.
The WHO has declared depression as the most widespread epidemic and has called it the deadliest mental disorder. According to a 2011 study by the WHO, Indians are among the world’s most depressed people and the condition is twice as bad among Indian women.
The Indian government has a mental health policy in works, which should make seeking professional help for mental conditions mandatory.
Deepika is working towards building an awareness program with her team to spread the word about depression. She will be roping in more celebrities to open up and talk about the condition.
The more the condition is repressed, the more taboos placed on it and the more people shun it – the larger it is going to get.
However, as more celebrities speak up about depression, the condition is now finally out in the open. People are talking, inquiring and taking initiatives to understand the monster that we have created of depression with a hope to defeat it.