My heart is so heavy. I won’t pretend to understand. I won’t even pretend to being OK covering the passing of yet another prominent name in Indian entertainment in the space of a few months. And I most definitely won’t pretend that this one hurts any less. In fact, it hurts more. Much more.
The sad demise of TV actor Kushal Punjabi in December was a huge shock to so many. All people who knew him remembered in tribute posts was his smiling face and his apparent zest for life. Life. The life he ended himself. The life he took due to so many demons and battles he was fighting internally. The life that looked seemingly “happy” on social media. There was a trick in this. The trick was that you make your life look so shining on social media and on the face you show the world but what about the face that is there for real? What about the heart and mind that is full of things that make you feel like you’re drowning? Who sees those? Who understands those?
Sushant was an actor who deserved much better than he got. No, really. I know it’s very easy for me to say this but I genuinely believe he will remain one of the finest to have transitioned from TV and theatre to films. You only need to watch any one movie of his to see his natural ability to brighten up a screen. You only need to watch any dance performance of his, even in season four of ‘Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa’, to see that he was one of the best dancers in the industry, on par with the likes of Hrithik Roshan and Shahid Kapoor. So what happened? What happened to this bright spark?
The truth is, we will never know what exactly was going through his mind that at the age of just 34, he thought he had nowhere else to turn. Let’s just remember it takes a very low phase and a certain kind of “strength” to even take a step like this. It’s the kind of strength in which one feels that leaving the world is the only thing that will take the pain away. And that’s perhaps the saddest part. He lived in an environment where he felt he couldn’t express his battles in any other way. Therein, his death – much like Kushal’s – highlights the importance of mental health.
Although Deepika Padukone has done much in the last few years in terms of raising awareness about the topic, there appears to be a blanket focus – if any – that people have. The issue of men’s mental health is too significant a topic to just push under a blanket “mental health” umbrella. It is well known that men in British society find it difficult to talk and express themselves. Whether this is seen as a position they feel they are in because of social norms or stigma is sometimes talked about in the UK. However, when it comes to an Indian society and specifically when you are in the limelight or part of the entertainment industry, there needs to be a bigger push. The spotlight needs to be created to make sure that anyone within showbiz, whether male or female, is comfortable enough to raise their voices and speak about their truths and not be penalised for this. There are so many accounts out there of struggling actors attempting to end their lives because they just can’t cope anymore. It is easy for anyone to say afterwards that it is a sad way to go and that they should’ve reached out or someone should have maintained some contact with them. It really is very easy for all of this kind of talk. What it actually takes is actions. I would urge anyone in the industry who can, to start something where there is always a network of support available, no matter where you are in your career, and on the condition of anonymity. That’s the only way anyone suffering will feel secure enough to open up and any support is a lifeline when you are feeling so low. Literally anything.
Sushant, I think we have failed you. I never met you but I always wanted to be able to be in your company at some point in the future because I admired you so much. But it feels like even I have failed you. I am part of the culture which seems to always crave for relevance. It’s got to be worse for someone who was in the limelight like you, I presume. Failed movie or shelved projects? You’re not bankable anymore. Failed relationship? You’re not relevant anymore. Whether that is how you felt or whether it was something else, you were NOT a failure. I know every single one of us feels your loss to the core of our hearts today. And it really does feel like we could’ve and should’ve done much better by you.
We recognise the potential you had which we have now lost and may we never EVER forget that. Your star will shine bright up in the sky to remind us to be kinder, more considerate and to take care of one another, like we should’ve taken care of you.
You will be missed much more than you know.
And I hope the world you were in becomes stronger and more open to wholeheartedly support and successfully overcome the burdens you carried which may exist in so many others.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of this website.