RAMNATH N PAI RAIKAR | NT NETWORK
“Din khali khali bartan hai
Aur raat hai jaise andha kuan
In sooni andheri aankhon mein
Aansoon ki jagah aata hain dhuan
Jeene ki wajah toh koi nahin
Marne ka bahana dhoondta hai…
(The day is like an empty vessel
And the night is a dark well
The blank eyes have dried up
And smoke has replaced tears in them
There is no reason to live
As I try to find an excuse to die…)
When poet Gulzar wrote the song ‘Ek akela is shahar mein…’ for Bhimsain’s 1977 classic, ‘Gharaonda’, to describe the plight of a common man lost in the city of Mumbai, he might have not foreseen that the song would become a reflection of life of many members of his own fraternity. But then the particular film had a tagline: ‘The city has a heart of stone’. And when the city has a stony heart, it is definitely rigid, cold and firm, and necessarily does not respond to any emotion.
The recent death of Bollywood actor, Sushant Singh Rajput by way of suicide not only strengthens the popular belief that a successful person is very lonely at the top, but also points out the fact that just as some people are unable to cope with failure, some are incapable of handling their success. The passing away of Sushant takes us back to the past, where we find numerous cases of suicide involving film personalities – right from Guru Dutt to Kushal Punjabi – who had achieved name and fame, and enjoyed a bevy of admirers.
On October 10, 1964, the iconoclastic filmmaker, Guru Dutt was found dead in his bed, in the rented apartment at Pedder Road , in Mumbai. He was 39. When death came, Guru Dutt had just tasted success in the form of his production, ‘Sahib, Bibi aur Ghulam’ (1962), which erased the failure of his earlier CinemaScope magnum opus, ‘Kaagaz ke Phool’ (1959). However, at the same time his personal life began to fall apart. A rumoured affair with actress, Waheeda Rehman led to conflict with his wife, the famous singer, Geeta Dutt. Their growing estrangement and the resulting separation from his children troubled him greatly. Furthermore, his dark, brooding nature combined with alcoholism led him to his end. Guru Dutt was found dead in his locked bedroom, from an overdose of alcohol and sleeping pills. If Guru Dutt had survived that day, it would have been his third suicide attempt; the second time he was even admitted to the Nanavati Hospital and had slipped into a coma for three days.
Brij Sadanah, popularly known as Brij was a well-known producer and director, and known for successful films like ‘Yakeen’ (1969) and ‘Victoria No. 203’ (1972). On the midnight of October 21, 1990, he shot himself dead at his residence after killing his actress wife, Sayeeda Khan and daughter, Namrata in an inebriated state. Incidentally, the day was also his son and actor, Kamal Sadanah’s birthday, who somehow survived the shootout, even though a bullet had pierced his neck. The carnage, it is said, was the result of business – several of Brij’s films had done badly and he was under high stress – and religion-related discord between Brij and his wife.
Divya Bharti, known for her bubbly personality and doll-like looks had a successful career in Bollywood when she married Sajid Nadiadwala, a film producer. Within one year of her marriage, in the late evening hours of April 5, 1993, Divya fell from the balcony of her fifth floor apartment, at Versova and died in the hospital. She was 19. Before her fall, Divya was entertaining her dress designer, Neeta Lulla and Neeta’s doctor husband, Shyam at her apartment. It was reported that Divya had gulped a few drinks and complained of being depressed before going to the balcony. Police investigated the case and arrived at a conclusion that the incident was a suicide.
The death of actress, Parveen Babi was very tragic. Parveen, who battled paranoid schizophrenia during her career in films, later resided alone in an apartment, in Mumbai. When found dead, she had a gangrene of the left foot as a complication of her diabetic condition. A post-mortem revealed that there were no traces of food in her stomach, and she had starved herself to death. She was 55.
Actress Jiah Khan, who had acted with major stars like Amitabh Bachchan (‘Nishabd’) and Aamir Khan (‘Ghajini’) was found hanging at her Mumbai residence on June 3, 2013 by her mother Rabiya Amin, herself an actress of yesteryears. Jiah was 25. She was reportedly pregnant at the time. The mother blamed Jiah’s boyfriend, actor Sooraj Pancholi for her death, who was eventually charged with abetting the suicide. Sooraj was allegedly in a live-in relationship with Jiah. The case remains to be settled.
Sex symbol, Silk Smitha; former Miss India, Nafisa Joseph; television actresses, Preksha Mehta and Kuljeet Randhawa; actors, Kunal Singh and Kushal Punjabi were all found hanging at their residences. They were closely linked to the glamour world and had their own fan following. Many of them had left behind suicide notes admitting that they are unable to cope with life’s pressures exerted by various issues ranging from failed career to failed relationship and from loneliness to debt accumulation resulting from producing movies.
Sushant Singh Rajput is the recent addition to this list of film personalities, who chose to give away their life. He reportedly committed suicide due to the alleged harsh demands of the Hindi film industry. It’s ironic that in his last theatrical release, ‘Chhichhore’ (2019), the actor mouthed the dialogue, “Success ke baad ka plan sabke paas hai… lekin agar galti se fail ho gaye… toh failure se kaise deal karna hai… Iski koi baat hi nahi karna chahta”. (Everyone has a plan after achieving success… but if you fail by mistake… then how you need to deal with failure… no one wants to talk about it). It seems, he himself never gave it a thought.
“As long as you’re alive, there’s always a chance things will get better.” So goes a popular quote. Perhaps those who ended their life had not heard of it. And if they have had, then during that particular moment when they gave away their life, they must have chosen to just forget it!
Clinical psychology maintains that many of the celebrities are prone to depression and bipolar disorder due to incessant media and public scrutiny.
People living with glamour around them experience more stress than ordinary people, in turn suffering from a range of mental disorders such as panic attacks, insomnia, violent outbursts, substance abuse, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, sex addiction and kinky or deviant sexual behaviour.
Those with bipolar disorder experience unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks
Constant public exposure and the media glare also nurture in celebrities, a tendency towards perfection and a pathological aversion to fashion faux pas and social missteps.
Many of the celebrities are too fearful to seek expert advice, fearing their weakness will be exposed. They suppress emotional pain or stress, instead of facing it or accepting it.
Unable to seek expert advice, many of the celebrities were found to turn to alcohol as an escape route, in turn worsening their condition.
Working in the arts industry has long been, literally, the kiss of death for many of the creatively gifted. According to a 2014 study by the psychology professor, Dianna Kenny, at the University of Sydney, out of the 12,665 musicians and stars who died between 1950 and June 2014, the chances of famous musicians and rock stars dying from unnatural causes are five to ten times greater than the general population; pop and rock stars die up to 25 years younger than average people.