The recent frenzy, invasive speculations, and consequent conversations post-Sushant Singh Rajput’s shocking death to suicide have effectively proved that our understanding and acceptance of mental health remain frustratingly shoddy. So many out there have been obsessing over what could have possibly driven such an accomplished person to suicide. They are constantly looking for a reason, the knowledge of a trigger event that will rule out the possibility of one’s mental health struggles being a possible explanation behind it.
Basically, we will subscribe to all kinds of theories except the idea of mental health struggles and how they can hamper your life as much as any physical ailment. And while the roots of the problem extend in all realms and directions, it is the romanticised portrayal of mental health struggles in mainstream media and cinema that happens to be our special concern here.
Most of us have seen a movie character with mental illness whose “abnormality” is the most overpowering element in the portraiture, often pushing them to the brink of absolute damage or death. All in all, mental health still remains an elusive subject, therapy a huge stigma, and movies based on them, colossal fail except for a handful of them that do the job pretty well.
However, we did a little searching and have managed to curate a list of films that remain sensitive in terms of their treatment of the subject of mental health. Seek a sneak peek into our watch list? Scroll through:
Hauntingly beautiful, Aparna Sen’s 15 Park Avenue very conveniently blurs the line between what’s ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ as they are perceived in our society. The film follows Meethi’s (Konkona Sen Sharma) quest for 15 Avenue, an address that exists nowhere but in her mind. The film is laudable for its honest attempt to portray Meethi’s struggle, normalising it while not attempting to dissect or comprehend its subject matter beyond the point that the maker’s knowledge allows. It gives you both an insight into the mental health struggles as well as how those who see someone struggling need to approach it. The film also raises important concerns like the treatment of mental health patients in India and how so many of them end up at faith healers instead of professionals.
Dear Zindagi is a film that deserves its shares of accolades for its non-cliched portrayal of mental health struggles. As Kaira (Alia Bhatt) seeks professional help through Dr. Jahangir Khan (Shahrukh Khan), the film throws light on the therapist-patient relationship. And while that might be a dangerous territory to venture especially for a mainstream film, this one manages to show it pretty well. The film is also important for showing that you can be doing very well in life and still have your own set of mental health struggles.
A Death In The Gunj is an important film especially for making a commentary on how our everyday behaviour has its own implications on our mental health as well as others. The film revolves around Shutu’s (Vikrant Massey) journey of realisation that sometimes your own virtues lead to your undoing. The film also explores the topic of toxic masculinity, the impact it can have on those at the receiving end of it, and how toxic patterns have a rippling effect until effectively addressed.
To begin with, the film has to its credit the fact that it has been made by psychiatrist-actor Mohan Agashe and boasts of a National award for Best Feature Film. A Marathi language film, this is somewhat similar in subject matter to Oscar-winning Silver Lining Playbook in the sense that two people struggling with their mental health find solace in one another. In the film, Janaki (Iravati Harshe) who is dealing with her own mental health issues provides a support system to Maanav (Alok Rajwade). However, the similarity ends there. The film is especially important for highlighting the ever-growing struggles with depression among the young in India and is exceptionally researched and well-executed.
With a resounding reassurance that all of us have a shot at the silver lining irrespective of our circumstances, this is a film that takes an unprejudiced take on mental health while attempting to dismantle the stigma. Pat is (Bradley Cooper) bipolar and freshly out of a mental health facility. Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) is struggling with an unidentified illness, has a dead husband, and her maligned reputation among other things to deal with. The two connect over a conversation on their mental health medication as they leave everyone else visibly uncomfortable. The movie normalises mental illness while throwing light on the importance of professional health and a strong support system. This one is a reassuring reminder that all of us, in fact, have ‘a shot at a silver lining.’
Still Alice follows the journey of a linguistics professor (Julianne Moore) whose life is thrown in disarray after she is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Heartbreaking albeit sensitive, the film deserves accolades for its portrayal of Alzheimer’s Disease and how the symptoms manifest, the most basic of words begin to escape her, and the family witnesses it all in absolute helplessness. The film is remarkable not just for its nuanced portrayal of mental health but also for the amount of fight that the person struggling with it puts into it. The film concludes with a beautiful message, no matter how hard the journey happens to be, it all comes down to one single emotion that makes the journey easier: love!
Perhaps the aptest movie to watch right now, Melancholia is a film that gives you insight into something mostly unexplored although vital. Not only does the film manages to bring out the haunting anguish and the uncomfortable reality of living with depression, but also of what happens when your triggers are further aggravated by outer stimuli, by occurrences that can be equally unsettling for everyone out there. The film follows the journey of two sisters Justice (Kirsten Durst) and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) while they deal with the realities of impending doom as another planet threatens to strike Earth and finish all semblance of life on the planet.
Rest assured, all these films are great works of art and deserve a go whether or not you seek a film on mental health. Happy watching folks!
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