Japanese legend Setsuko Hara, from ‘Tokyo Story’ and ‘The Idiot’, is dead

The actress passed away in September, but her death was announced only recently.

One of Japanese cinema’s most well-known faces died in September – and the world has only just found out.

Setsuko Hara, the actress from Yasujiro Ozu’s Late Spring and Tokyo Story, Akira Kurosawa’s No Regrets for Our Youth and The Idiot, and Mikio Naruse’s Repast, died of pneumonia on September 25 in Kanagawa Prefecture near Tokyo, but the media picked up the news only on November 25. Hara was 95.

She was born on June 17, 1920, and made her debut in 1935. Hara worked with several Japanese directors, but her work with Ozu stands out. Here she is in Late Spring (1949), the first of six Ozu films in which she appeared. The family drama stars another one of Ozu’s favourites, Chishu Ryu, who plays the widowed father to Hara’s Noriko. Should the widower remarry, or should he first get Noriko hitched?


In Ozu’s masterpiece Tokyo Story (1953), Hara plays a different Noriko, this time the kind-hearted daughter-in-law of an elderly couple (Ryu and Chieko Higashiyami).


Hara had previously appeared in Akira Kurosawa’s debut, No Regrets For Our Youth (1946), a political drama about student unrest in 1933. Hara plays the daughter of a professor who steals the two hearts of two of his students.


In Kurosawa’s The Idiot (1951), his adaptation of the Fyodor Dostoevsky novel, Hara is in crackling form as one of two women with whom Toshiro Mifune’s war-time hoodlum gets involved.


In an essay written for the Mumbai Film Festival’s survey of eight decades of Japanese cinema in 2010, film scholar Suresh Chabria memorably says about Hara, “Billed as the ‘eternal virgin’, Hara represents further aspects and depths of Japanese womanhood as it is portrayed in cinema.”

Chabria, a former director of the National Film Archive of India, pays special attention to Hara’s striking visage. “Another aspect of her screen persona was her mask-like face,” Chabria writes. “This mask hid a more complex person that refuses to reveal herself fully to others. The contradictory feelings that often flit across her face – sadness and gaiety, doubt and hope – are ultimately always held in check. A quiet radiance emanates from her in every situation, in every turn of an unpredictable life that is inevitably leading human beings to loneliness and silence.”

Hara retired from the screen in 1963, the year Ozu died, and retreated from public glare. She never married, rarely gave interviews, and lived with her sister’s family until her death. The Japanese media reported that Hara had been hospitalised in August, and had asked her family to refrain from announcing her death.

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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.


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.