New Delhi (Sputnik): The “cursed” year of 2020 has been a particularly rough one for the Indian entertainment industry that has lost some of its best loved stars. Apart from Bollywood veterans Rishi Kapoor and Irrfan Khan, who died due to illness, five celebs including Sushant Singh Rajput have died due to suicide between May and August.
32-year-old Indian television actor Manmeet Grewal committed suicide on 18 May in Mumbai after battling a financial crisis.
In June, Bollywood young gun Sushant Singh Rajput and his manager Disha Salian also ended their lives. Although their deaths are being investigated as murders, initial reports suggested mental health issues made have played a part.
Bollywood fans hadn’t even recovered from the shock of losing three of its stars to these shocking tragedies, before the suicides of TV actor Sameer Sharma and Bhojpuri actress Anupama Pathak catapulted them into a state of mourning once again.
In a 10-minute Facebook Live the night before her death, a low looking Pathak told of how nobody helped her when she needed them.
These back-to-back suicide cases during lockdown have sparked a loud discussion on mental health awareness that seems to have taken a back seat in the overworked lifestyles that people are leading.
Mental health experts in India have noted that working in hyper-competitive industries like entertainment and media often leads to stress and anxiety.
While getting an opportunity to work in such scrutinised fields is demanding, the first steps to enter the inner circles and bag projects are a challenge.
Every year, India’s city of dreams Mumbai fascinates thousands of aspiring actors, singers, directors and storytellers from across the country. They wish to make it big in Bollywood but many succumb amid the struggle to survive.
The reason for this, according to experts of mental illnesses, is because taking a break in education and careers is not normalised in India. Sadly, it’s rather looked down upon.
Dr. Avinash De Sousa, a Consultant Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist in Mumbai city told Sputnik today, people suffer from FOMO – fear of missing out.
“They think if they take a break, they may lose opportunities. What they do not realise is, if you’re good, work will come your way. People don’t want to talk about things.”
He says there is “an element of loneliness, which is now amplified because of the COVID-19 situation”.
“From working 8-12 hours minimum in a day, to suddenly being locked down in your home with no work happening and a lot of fear, anxiety and uncertainty in terms of the career, is somewhere taking a toll on people’s mental health,” he says.
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Some Mumbai-based hustlers formerly associated with big brands and now at a standstill due to the pandemic told Sputnik about the host of challenges they face.
“The first step after moving out to a new city is to find accommodation. In Mumbai, renting even a one-room-flat costs you around minimum $200-$300 a month. That added up to the eating, traveling and surviving expenses in this city, takes the total to go through the roof,” a former member of the casting team of a major production house told Sputnik.
“The funny part, however, is that if at all artists do find a job that would temporarily pay off their bills, the money barely covers the living costs.”
The aspiring director added that for outsiders, firstly, there are no specific working hours. Secondly, their association with a project limits them to doing odd jobs like fetching evening snacks or coordinating meetings on the phone.
A 25-year-old struggling model, who has bagged roles in short films and has a screen presence, also revealed that most industry people refrain from officially documenting hiring and firing procedures. It always keeps the newcomers on the needle-tip of job uncertainty.
“The money is so less, affording a place to stay and paying off its hefty deposit that easily breaches $1,000 is a stress in itself,” she adds.
Industry Experts Advise Patience
After Sushant’s death, Bollywood biggies like Karan Johar, Aditya Chopra, Salman Khan and newly launched kids of established Bollywood celebs faced brutal flak on social media.
From being tagged “movie mafias” to being called “murderers”, these big names in B-town were called out for only promoting new faces from their inner circles while making entering the profession more difficult for the outsiders.
According to Deepak Dua, a film critic and member of the Film Critic Guild, it is unfortunate that “we lost bright young people who were in the prime of their lives to financial crisis, career-related anxiety and mental health issues”.
Dua told Sputnik: “Money-related problems generally follow an upcoming artist that is why many of them give up on their dreams and change the trajectory of their careers.”
“….how can ending your life be the answer? A living person will always find a way to make it big with life,” he says.
Dua urges young aspirants in the entertainment industry to be patient, especially in these testing times.
Recently, a report compiled by a group of researchers noted that suicides have lately become common in India, because people are stressed out over their professional lives and financial woes.
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