Bollywood flashback

Bollywood in 2015: It’s all about hating your parents

Those movies in which the dinner table is a battleground? There were plenty of them to feast on this year.

It has been the year of Soils and Light and Light-based Technologies for the United Nations, the year of the rabbit according to the Chinese zodiac, and the year of the “They fuck you up, your mum and dad” movie in Bollywood.

There was the official family flick, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, produced by the flame-keeper Rajshri Productions and packed with heart-warming messages about duty, piety and responsibility. And then there were other less misty-eyed titles that suggested that more families are dysfunctional than normal, unquestioning love for parents and siblings is self-limiting, and fathers and mothers can do damage rather than good.

The parade of basket-case fathers (and the odd mother) and put-upon sons (and the occasional daughter) include Dum Laga Ke Haisha’s Sanjay Mishra, NH10’s Deepti Naval, Brothers’ Jackie Shroff, Piku’s Amitabh Bachchan, Tamasha’s Javed Sheikh and Titli’s unnamed patriarch.

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A particularly ugly aspect of family dynamics emerges in Nadveep Singh’s horror-tinged thriller NH10, in which an urbane couple encounters the practice of honour killing in Haryana. Sharat Katariya’s Dum Laga Ha Haisha was billed as an oddball romantic comedy between a thin man and his overweight bride, but the movie’s heart lies in the acutely observed portrayal of the extended families that forcibly yoke these disparate souls together.

Several films examined the primary social unit with depth, honesty and perspicacity. In Shoojit Sircar’s Piku, the tensions of a single daughter putting her life on hold to care for her part-ailing and part-hypochondriac father emerge through the crowd-friendly touches, including A-listers in key roles, comic situations and uplifting songs. In Zoya Akhtar’s Dil Dhadakne Do, affluence, education and a highly evolved fashion sense cannot save the Mehras from near implosion. Kanu Behl’s Titli dispenses with all niceties: the family is the unmistakable villain in his movie about a young man who plots his escape from carjacking brothers. Only by destroying the family from within can the titular protagonist start anew.

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Even Brothers, the mostly unwatchable Indian remake of the Hollywood mixed martial arts drama Warrior, throws a few punches in favour of the idea that children can be marred and scarred for life by the actions of their fathers.

The year’s biggest hits included two formulaic movies powered by the unstoppable Salman Khan juggernaut, and positive family values were largely responsible for their success. Khan’s character in Kabir Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan becomes the surrogate father to a mute girl from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, while in Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, he is the glue that holds together his feuding and feudal unit.

Leo Tolstoy’s observation “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” unfolded on the screen in expected and unexpected ways. Meghna Gulzar’s Talvar makes the case for a more balanced view of the parents deemed as monsters by the law and order machinery and the media. Based on the 2008 double murders of Aarushi Talwar and Hemraj Banjade, Talvar persuasively argues that the characters based on Aarushi’s parents, Rajesh and Nupur, could not have committed the crimes. Shonali Bose’s Margarita with a Straw tackles issues of disability and sexuality, and boldly re-imagines the family unit. Can a wheelchair-bound bisexual woman living with cerebral palsy find happiness in the arms of her visually impaired lesbian lover?

In 2015, she could.

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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.