on the actor's trail

Mom-to-be Kareena Kapoor has revived the old debate about married heroines – but there’s a twist

We might be having a few wrong expectations after the announcement of the star’s pregnancy.

In 2012, director Sanjay Leela Bhansali made a questionable statement in the midst of pre-production for Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram Leela about replacing Kareena Kapoor with Deepika Padukone. “A married woman can never be my Juliet,” he had said at that time, explaining why Kapoor, who had announced her wedding to Saif Ali Khan, would be miscast as William Shakespeare’s tragic heroine.

At the time, Kapoor was about to promote Madhur Bhandarkar’s Heroine, which she had signed after Aishwarya Rai abandoned the project following her pregnancy. Four years later, Kapoor is the one tackling questions about her professional future as she prepares for motherhood. The confirmation of her pregnancy came from Saif Ali Khan, who has not yet been asked whether becoming a father for the third time will affect his upcoming movies.

Kapoor’s next project Veere Di Wedding, directed by Shashanka Ghosh and produced by Rhea Kapoor, will not be affected, her representative told Scroll.in. “Rhea as a producer has a fantastic track record,” the spokesperson said. “They will finish in two and half months.” Kapoor is due in December, and hasn’t signed any film after Veere Di Wedding.

The chatter about Kapoor confirms that Hindi film actresses have always had to play hopscotch with their personal milestones, whether it’s Kajol, who went into hibernation after marriage and motherhood, or Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, who was accused of leaving her Heroine producer in the lurch. This is not the case with their male peers, such as single dad Tusshar Kapoor, soon-to-be-father Shahid Kapoor, and Riteish Deshmukh, whose wife Genelia recently delivered their second child. Deshmukh continues to top-line sex comedies with misogynistic content, often alongside Tusshar Kapoor, while Shahid Kapoor’s heartthrob status appears unchanged.

Very few actresses have managed to salvage their careers after tying the knot. Those who do return adopt a more sedate screen avatar. No raunchy songs, risque dialogue or intimate scenes, and no surprises in their choice of roles. Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit and Kajol have made limited appearances after marriage and motherhood. Kajol teamed up with her best screen partner Shah Rukh Khan in Dilwale in 2015, in which she presented as a clotheshorse with neon nail polish. Madhuri Dixit has found a way to extend her career on television.

Vidya Balan, who played bold roles in Ishqiya (2010) and The Dirty Picture (2011) before her wedding in 2012, is routinely harassed with questions about motherhood. She had a particularly tough time when poor health forced her to call off professional engagements. In 2014, Balan opted out of an awards ceremony, and pregnancy rumours surfaced alongside pictures of the visibly bloated actress. This was followed by some controversial career choices, including an alleged spat with her Kahaani director Sujoy Ghosh. Marriage, tut-tutted industry watchers, had killed the prospects of a talented actress who was just peaking.

Why Kareena Kapoor might buck the trend

Kareena Kapoor might do things differently because she handled her professional life better than most of her peers. Kapoor has balanced big-budget entertainers with realistic films such as Talaash, Satyagraha, Singham Returns, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Ki & Ka and Udta Punjab. How’s that for a smart response to Bhansali’s remark?

Some of Kapoor’s film choices have yielded mixed results, but she has made good her losses with her brand endorsements. Managed by Hindi cinema’s favourite talent manager Reshma Shetty, Kapoor has close to 18 brands in her kitty. She reportedly charges Rs 3-5 crore for an endorsement, which is less than the unattached stars Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra. Kapoor has managed to stay relevant and in circulation – a tough task for a married actress in her thirties who is gearing up for motherhood.

How will the Kareena Kapoor narrative change with the new twist in the plot? Juhi Chawla peddles health products, Karisma Kapoor sells baby stuff, while Dixit has been the face of toothpaste, tea and age-defying creams. Will Kapoor, who recently signed up for a line of high-end bathroom fittings and green tea, now move on to diapers and bottled water? Will Bollywood write another “Fevicol Se” item song for her?

If Kapoor chooses to get back to work, Hindi filmmakers will need to rewrite their scripts for working mothers all over again. The last time a woman bucked the trend was in the 1970s – and she happens to be Kapoor’s mother-in-law. Sharmila Tagore, who married Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi in 1969, continued to star in populist films such as Aradhana, Mausam and Amar Prem. Her first child, Saif Ali Khan, was born in 1970, followed by Saba and Soha¸but she remained at the top of her game alongside Mumtaz through the ’70s. We would like to believe Kapoor, who perfectly fitted into Tagore’s traditional gown at the time of her wedding, has picked up a few lessons in stardom from her legendary mother-in-law.

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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.