Reality TV

#OviyaArmy: This ‘Bigg Boss’ Tamil contestant has gained a massive fan base

The actor’s ‘carefree and loving’ nature has been one of the highlights of the reality TV show.

Last week, the Tamil reality show Bigg Boss broke the internet, but not because of its highly popular and controversial host Kamal Haasan. It was a little-known 26-year-old Tamil model and actor who set off the Twitter trend #SaveOviya for a week.

The Tamil version of Bigg Boss is immensely popular, reportedly gathering a viewership of 3.6 crores in the first two weeks since it went on air on June 25. The format is syndicated from the British show Big Brother: several celebrities are locked inside a house and are constantly being filmed by 30 cameras. Each week, the housemates vote among themselves for candidates to be put up for elimination. The viewers at home vote to save the contestant they support on the show. The housemate with the least votes is eliminated.

In the Tamil version, which follows numerous editions in Hindi, 15 men and women have chosen house arrest for a 100-day period. The other actors among the contestants are Shree, Bharani and Namitha.

Oviya, previously known as Helen Nelson, had been up for elimination three times, and each time, she was saved by audience votes. Before her Bigg Boss stint, Oviya had starred alongside Prithviraj in the Malayalam film Kangaroo and the Tamil romantic comedy Kalavani. She is now an internet sensation for her carefree, non-confrontational attitude in a show that revels in cattiness and aggression.

With the contestants living in close proximity for weeks with no contact with the outside world, personality clashes abound. Despite the fact that almost all the housemates seem to share a common animosity towards Oviya and often verbally abuse her – particularly Bharatiya Janata Party member Gayathri Raghuram – the actor has held her own, earning the admiration of viewers. In one episode, however, she finally began to crack, kicking off the Save Oviya campaign on social media.

A number of groups and pages erupted across Facebook, calling for a Save Oviya Movement on Chennai’s Marina beach. “This is to support our Thalaivi Oviya from anti social elements such as Gayatri (BJP), Nami(o)tha and backstabber Julie,” read the Facebook event hosted by Tamil Dank Memes.

At one point on the show, when the leader of the house argued with Oviya over a set of rules being followed, she uttered the words, “Neenga Shut Up Pannunga” (Please shut up), which became an instant hit for the firm yet respectful way with which she made her point. The statement has inspired T-shirts, cover photos on Facebook and even a song.

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There even seems to be a mobile game, where you have to shoot all contestants except Oviya.

Tamil Nadu loves its cult figures, and Oviya is steadily becoming one. The ‘Oviya Army’ and ‘Oviyans’ in the state have already decided that the actress will be the next Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, no less. At a time when Tamil Nadu is facing one crisis after another, Oviya seems to have become a welcome distraction from the headlines.

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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.