Misrepresentation of mental illness in bollywood

India is not a country that is totally unaware of mental illnesses and their harmful effects. The continuous misinterpretation of these problem hidden behind the “artistic licence” is shaping the minds of how general Indian population look at the issues. In a country where one in every twelve citizens are suffering from mental illnesses it is important to have accurate representation of both- the disorder and the treatment.

It is baffling to see that even well-educated and socially aware filmmakers and actors sometimes exploit certain elements of psychological disorders so that it can fit to the plot of their movies. They finish entire movies, without actually shedding any light over the given disorder — like, depression in Anjaana Anjaani or autism in Barfi or Asperger’s Syndrome in My Name Is Khan.

With the poor representation, sometimes movies give false information about these disorders, treatment and mental health care hospitals. Psychiatrists and psychologists are also ill-represented, as they shown encouraging exorcism, like Akshay Kumar in Bhool Bhulaiya or suggesting Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT) (shock treatment) in a threatening manner, like Om Puri in Kyon Ki.

Misinformation in regarding the clinical diagnosis, etiology (causes), prevention and even care is constantly shown in Bollywood movies. For example, in the movie Black, Amitabh Bachchan’s character — who is shown to be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease regain his memories. That’s not correct, as the disorder progressively worsens. The misleading information to the common man can be potentially harmful as it is setting unrealistic expectations. In movies like hassee toh phasee symptoms anxiety are shown inaccurately just to fit the stereotype image of pagal.

It is possible to work within their main story-line manage while conveying the pain and suffering of a person so that the audience can ‘take home’ some sense and perceive mental health differently. It can be a small step away from all the stigmas and myths that are associated with mental health disorders and treatments as shown in movies like dear zindagi and hichki.