superstar dossier

Is the Hri-Naut scandal a blessing in disguise for Hrithik Roshan?

The controversy involving Roshan and Kangana Ranaut might inspire some much-needed introspection about image management.

Kangana Ranaut and Hrithik Roshan may bury the hatchet soon. Our interest and selective outrage will find fresh meat. Ranaut has borne the brunt of the scandal, with questions being raised about her true intentions in exposing her alleged affair with Roshan and even the state of her mental health. But there is little doubt that Roshan is as vulnerable to ridicule as Ranaut here.

Impossibly good looks, an enviable family support system devoted to nurturing his stardom and the potential to knock the Khans off their thrones – Hrithik Roshan had it all. Yet, the third-generation star has failed to make good the riches at his disposal. His box-office appeal has been steadily waning in recent years, and the Ranaut scandal has swung back the glare on him in a most undesirable fashion.

The Hri-Naut entanglement might have remained restricted to a knowledgeable few had Roshan ignored an interview by Ranaut in which she blamed her “silly-ex” for being dropped from a few upcoming productions. Despite not being named in the interview, Roshan chose to send Ranaut a legal notice. She countered with one of her own, triggering off outrageous allegations and revelations that have been spun by Ranaut’s team of publicists as proof of her underdog status in notoriously nepotistic Bollywood.

Roshan, meanwhile, has attracted his fair share of contempt. The general lack of sympathy towards the actor might have something to do with his inconsistent and sometimes incredible public statements and efforts to position himself as a contemporary Vishwamitra to Ranaut’s Menaka. He radiates “love, peace and harmony” at all times except when taunted by a woman.

Does the nation really want to know anything about Hrithik Roshan?

Roshan’s diminished popularity might also have something to do with the mixed reception of his last few films. Once touted as the worthiest successor to the Khan trio, Roshan has never found himself wanting for prestigious films or adulation since his debut, Kaho Na... Pyaar Hai (2000). He has managed to hold on to a clean, almost boring, family man image despite link-ups with his co-stars, including Kareena Kapoor, Barbara Mori and Katrina Kaif. In fact, Ranaut might just have done Roshan a favour. It’s been a while since anyone showed any interest in Roshan’s personal life. On the other hand, the nation often wants to know what Ranveer Singh had for breakfast.

Roshan’s father, the renowned director Rakesh Roshan, has played fire-fighter throughout his career. The Roshans backed their son when his wife, Sussanne Khan, walked out with their sons, and it is said that Rakesh Roshan has stepped in again to save his son from further self-damage and ridicule.

Why did Roshan rise to Ranaut’s bait and swap avatars like the mutants in Krrish 3? Did the hurtfully anonymous “silly ex” description rankle? Did Roshan perceive an attack on his privileges and entitlement as a star from an influential film family? Did he see the casual remark as a below-the-belt assessment of his waning stardom from a younger star whose fortunes are on the ascent?

Time for an image makeover

In 2012, Roshan made headlines with his fantastic physical transformation. A tough personal and professional phase had turned Roshan into a chain-smoking couch potato, he said at the time, and his beloved body had given up on him. The latest scandal might inspire some much-needed introspection about image management. It is no longer enough to be a so-called Greek god.

Roshan’s peers have been consistently working on consolidating their past gains even as they compete with younger and fitter talent. They are working hard on channelling their inner actors and have been experimenting with different roles (Shah Rukh Khan in Fan, for instance) and taking on creative challenges to stay exciting (Salman Khan’s astutely managed public profile). Both the established and emerging marquee names have shouldered their share of scandals and have managed to make good the attention and interest generated by gossip. After all, nothing rings the death of a star louder than a spell of silence in the media.

At 42, Roshan is possibly facing a crisis that is not merely about middle-age hormones. Incubated in his father’s laboratory with all the flamboyant elements of the classic Hindi film hero, he could never really connect with what was current. Even his launch vehicle was a rehash of his father’s favourite themes, which include rebirth and revenge. Roshan’s career has been crafted to sustain the family-run Roshan factory. The father writes and directs, while uncle Rajesh Roshan’s 1980s-inspired music plays in the background.

Most of his adult life, Roshan has lived in his assertive father’s shadow. Now, after the divorce and living on his own for the first time, he may have found his voice, only to realise that the world is speaking a very different language.

Something is surely eating up Roshan. In a recent uncharacteristic show of bad temper, he seized the camera of a newspaper photographer who was trying to get a picture of him on the sets of his upcoming movie Mohenjo Daro. Roshan confiscated the camera for over 24 hours and returned it after being threatened with legal action.

A closer look at the photograph tells a different story. The actor, who has always taken immense pride in his fitness levels and his ability to perform his own stunts, was shooting with a body double when the photographer chanced on him – an Achilles moment for a star who has always been vulnerable.

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Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

On 10th of October, trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, made a visit to a community health project centre in Devangere, Karnataka. The project, started by The Association of People with Disability (APD) in 2010, got a much-needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people suffering from mental illnesses and spreading its program to 6 Taluks, making a difference at a larger scale.

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During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.