Indian television

The DD Files: Shah Rukh Khan’s first steps under the big top in ‘Circus’

Directed by Aziz Mirza and Kundan Shah, the popular 1989 series is being telecast once again on Doordarshan.

Call it serendipity or a display of marketing savvy by the state broadcaster, but the rerun of the popular 1989 television show Circus on Doordarshan on Sundays could not have been better timed. At least for the lead actor, who stormed into Indian households that year as a rookie Army commando in Fauji and the young heir to a crumbling circus empire in Circus.

Khan plays a Shekaran, a Malayali, in Circus, which was directed by Aziz Mirza and Kundan Shah. The Delhi actor might have been a cultural misfit for the part, but he more than made up for it through his screen presence, raw energy, irrepressible youthfulness and ability to own every frame – all traits that endeared him to a generation of young viewers used to the stiff upper lip of Arun Govil as Ram in the Ramayana epic and the resignation of the forever-old Alok Nath in the Partition-era series Buniyaad.

Years later, Khan’s sculpted body would emerge from a bubble-and-rose bath to promote a soap brand. He was stripping down in the very first episode of Circus, in which he steps out of his tent in his briefs and bathes in the open with caged animals and giggling teenagers for company. Soap suds in his eyes, Shekaran struggles to reach out for a bucket of water until a friend bails him out. In episode after episode, Khan displayed a similar willingness to go for broke, a trait that marked some of his most appreciated film outings later.

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Circus.

Echoes of the earthy and inherently cool Shah Rukh Khan characters in Fauji and Circus can be found in his 2016 movies Fan and Dear Zindagi – which is why the rerun becomes all the more relevant for the star’s fan base.

Circus is also significant for sowing the seeds of a fine creative collaboration between Khan, Aziz Mirza and Kundan Shah. While Mirza directed Khan in Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman (1992), Yes Boss (1997), Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani (2000) and Chalte Chalte (2003), Shah gave Khan one of his best-loved roles in Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa (1994). Both filmmakers were known for their pop idealism, literary influences, a Chaplinesque worldview, and the ability to dress up serious art in glossy robes. The association that began on Doordarshan carried on to the box office a few years later, with Khan moving on to the tilted-smile-and-open-arms routine on foreign streets.

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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.