I couldn’t help but thinking of replacing the lead character of the movie “Dear Zindagi” to the opposite sex when I watched it in theatres. I did it in movies like “Trisha Illana Nayanthara” and “Vinnai Thandi Varuvaya” too. Would the movie have got the same response as it had got now? Importantly would any director have the guts to put a hero in a position where he seeks professional help for his depression? I could only wonder. From the teasers and trailers it was fairly easy to guess the storyline of the movie. But the sound track invited me to watch the movie in the big screen. As most of you know now, that the movie follows a successful Cinematographer Alia Bhatt fighting her way out of depression with the help of a psychiatrist played by Shah Rukh Khan.
Coming to Dear Zindagi, The lead character sleeps with a man while in relationship with another. She also has problems with committing to the person who she slept with and then she gets upset when he goes on to get engaged with a girl who was ready for marriage. She then falls for a man who is a musician, with clichéd name “Rumi” but she ditches him because she couldn’t understand music. It was exasperating to sit through these trials of the lead character but my “WTF” moment came when the doctor equates her boyfriends to chairs. That actually happens. He says one has to sit on so many chairs to find out which chair one is comfortable in. Now let’s just say our Autograph Cheran is in the patient’s chair and the doctor explains, girls are like shirts and we need to try as many as possible to get the right fit and liking, how would any woman have felt? Now just replace the lead character as a male in this movie. Will the lead character get the attention and sympathy of the viewers? I don’t think so. The director also cleverly avoided the question of what happened to the guys who Alia Bhatt dumped. And nobody asked why. They assumed that the guys would have moved on. Because they are “GUYS” you know. That is what they do. It would be impossible for the director to put a male in the patient chair of the physiatrist’s office. Because there is a general misconception that guys don’t need help in those areas.
Now, let’s think about the movies where male lead characters had mental illness. The first movie which flashes is “Sethu”. This path breaking movie which was a big break for Actor Vikram and Director Bala deals with mental illness. We see the inhumane condition where the lead character was admitted and treated. And then there is another movie which starred Prabhu named “Manasukkul Mathappu” which also showed that he was admitted to a mental hospital and administered electrocution to bring him out of it (which is illegal since 1989). Have you ever wondered why Sridevi who had amnesia in Sadma or Moondram Pirai was bubbly and cute and Surya who almost had the same problem had to tonsure? Is it not saying, a mental problem to a man is not only incurable but also abnormal? Not just Tamil movies. Let us take Hollywood movies like Silver Linings Playbook. It talks about the stigma attached to a man who comes back from correctional facility. Though it could have moved in a direction like “Dear Zindagi”, the story moves on from acceptance by self and family to companionship.
Like many popular cultures we think life inspires art. But if the recent uproar created by a movie called “Remo”, then we have to protest the injustice meted out to men when it comes to mental disorder. The only movie which handled a mental disorder sensitively is Aishwarya Dhanush’s 3 and it bombed royally in box office.
Let us not come to a conclusion like “Cinema has finally started to include women and their problems.” No they are not. They just want a cute face with a problem so that they can have your sympathy. It is all about business. When we talk length and breadth about gender equality, we need to talk about such things too. It also says how the creators are totally out of sync with reality.
It is possible that a woman who has suicidal tendencies and/or commitment phobia watches Dear Zindagi, she may feel that she can come out of it. But if a male who has Acute Adjustment Disorder watches “Ae Dil hai mushkil” he may think of himself as a loser, like almost everybody thought about Ranbir Kapoor’s character. If we keep off the argument about how the industry was male dominated for so many years and just now people are even talking about these problems, we can understand that we don’t take men’s mental health seriously.
To me, I don’t see any art forms which talk about men’s mental health. I wonder why a depressed female gets “Ellorukkum nalla kalam undu” and a depressed male student gets “Enthan Kan Munne Kan Munne Kanamal Ponene” even in songs. It can be only defined as lack of sensitivity towards men even when 90% of the technicians and creators in the field are of the same gender.
If you think, I am exaggerating, here are some facts based on Suicide Statistics of 2014. This is the latest one which is available in open internet.
On an average males suicide rate is twice that of females in India.
|Causes||No of people|
|Bankruptcy or indebtedness||2,308|
|Marriage Related Issues||6,773|
|Extra Marital affairs||476|
|Other Family problems||28,602|
|Death of dear person||981|
|Fall in social reputation||490|
In all above cases, think about one film which talked about leading men getting professional help for such causes? Can’t even name one? That is ok. Think about movies which had these causes as main themes in the movies, in which the lead characters swallows the issue and puts up a brave face? Can you name many? That, my friend, is the problem.
I sincerely hope in these tough times when nobody speaks up for a man; even when one’s best friend’s advice is to “Just Man Up” or “Move on,” it is imperative that films, which play a significant role in the psyche of youth today should be responsible about what they give to the society.